Matt Clark is alive today because of the quick actions of his coworkers – at 40,000 feet in the air.

Matt, who was an airline pilot at the time, had no previous medical issues or symptoms of a heart condition before his Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in 2020. “There was never anything to indicate that this might happen,” he says. “As far as I was aware, I was in excellent health.”

In May of 2020, Matt and two other pilots were operating a cargo flight from Frankfurt to Chicago. Because of the pandemic, the airplane was empty except for the pilots and cargo. About six and a half hours into the flight, while they were passing over eastern Canada, Matt went into Cardiac Arrest.

“Suddenly and without warning, I was just dead,” says Matt. “In the blink of an eye, I was gone, with no memory of the event.”

Immediately following the arrest, Matt’s fellow pilots sprang into action. After taking Matt’s pulse and checking for breathing – and finding neither – one of his fellow pilots began administering CPR. After several minutes, without any success at reviving Matt, one of the pilots went and grabbed the AED from the back of the plane and used it to administer a shock.

“As miraculous as that was, it was only the beginning,” says Matt. After the plane landed, he was admitted to the hospital for a total of two weeks, spending four days sedated in a coma and on a ventilator. Since then, he’s made a full recovery, thanks to the quick actions of the flight crew.

Shortly thereafter, Matt received an initial diagnosis of idiopathic (unknown cause) ventricular fibrillation, and had an ICD implanted. Today, he and his wife are advocates who help spread awareness about the importance of CPR and AEDs.

The pilot who saved Matt’s life had learned CPR thirty years ago, and still remembered it. “There’s no doubt that CPR saves lives,” says Matt, “including mine.”

“SCA can strike anyone, and there are not always warning signs,” he says. “It doesn’t discriminate – you can be any age and of any health status. This is why CPR is so important – it only takes a short amount of time to learn, but stays with you for the rest of your life, enabling you to save a life.”

Learn how you can make a difference this CPR and AED Awareness Week here. To watch Matt’s interview with Dr. Michael Ackerman on SADS Live, click here.