For 20 minutes on Tuesday, May 5, the day he turned 17, Zack Clements was clinically dead.
Today he is alive with no apparent lasting effects from his ordeal.
But that’s not even the most amazing part of his story.
When he regained consciousness three days later at Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Zack told his parents that he’d seen a man with a thick beard, blue eyes and long, ruffled hair, surrounded by angels.
“I realized it was Jesus,” Zack, 17, of Brownwood, Texas, tells PEOPLE exclusively, taking a break from playing video games at home after his second day back at school since he was released from the hospital.
“He put his hand on my shoulder and told me that everything was going to be all right,” he says. “It made me feel like someone was watching over me and I was going to get through it. Since it happened, I feel like I’m a stronger person.”
The Clements were so astounded by Zack’s revelation that Teresa videotaped her son recalling what he saw.
“He said that he saw a line of angels and in the middle was the prettiest one of all – Jesus,” says Teresa, 39.
The family has been inundated with calls and comments – pro and con – since Zack went public with his revelation in a local TV interview.
“We’ve had people say he’s lying, or that we gave him a pill before school that day so it would look like he’d gone into cardiac arrest,” says Billy Clements, 40, who works for an oil-rig company.
“People can argue science and logic, but they can’t argue somebody’s personal experience,” he says. “They can’t take that away from Zack.”
A Miracle in the Making
Football endurance training had just started after school on May 5 when, with no warning, Zack collapsed on the Warriors’ football field next to several of his friends.
For 20 minutes, classmates, a coach and a paramedic crew performed CPR to revive him.
“The situation was one of the gravest I’d seen,” says Gary Bay, who is principal of the Christian high school and used to work on a volunteer ambulance crew.
“If everyone hadn’t worked on him as quickly and efficiently as they did, I’m not sure he would have made it,” he says.
Doctors told Zack’s parents that the prognosis was grim.
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SOURCE: PEOPLE.com, Cathy Free