Truck driver Patrick Larkin knew something wasn't right when he plonked himself down in the plane seat.
The Northland man's instincts were right and within seconds he had suffered a cardiac arrest and passed out.
For the next 20 minutes passengers on the plane, including a nurse, jumped into action and carried out CPR and used a defibrillator to kick-start his heart again.
After his brush with death the 62-year-old was able to piece the drama together and spoke with the Northern Advocate.
Larkin has lived across the ditch in Australia for 17 years but he calls Panguru in the Hokianga home where his mum, Marie, still lives in the family homestead.
In his current job as a truck driver he works eight weeks on and then the company pays for him to fly back to paradise in Northland for his two weeks off.
It was on one of his return trips to Perth that he came close to it being his last trip.
On May 4 he left Auckland for Sydney, where the flight was delayed for three hours, making the plane change in Perth to the connecting flight to Port Hedland very tight.
Larkin was first off the plane in Perth and was instructed by the air hostess to run to Gate 14.
"I was the last passenger on the plane that was waiting for me and everyone was eyeballing me," Larkin recalls.
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"I was a bit breathless when I got to the plane but I thought I would come right. I sat down buckled up and that's all I remember, she was all over."
Larkin passed out. After a seizure he stopped breathing. He had suffered a life-threatening cardiac arrest.
Fellow passenger and off-duty nurse Ben Maher, from the Royal Flying Doctors, instinctively knew what to do. Maher immediately enlisted the help of other passengers and rolled Larkin on his back and started CPR.
After about five minutes fire staff arrived and applied a defibrillator to Larkin's chest.
Larkin was shocked about three times but did not respond. Maher, the fire crew and passengers continued CPR until the ambulance arrived. It was only then, 20 minutes on, that Larkin started to show signs of life and was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital.
Surgery followed and a pacemaker was inserted into his chest.
"It can jump start my heart now if it stops again. The way I see it in theory I should never die," Larkin said.
News of his close call spread and coincidentally his first cousin, Francis Banks, worked for the Royal Flying Doctor Service based out of Perth, and knew nurse Maher.
Banks and her sister, Anne Wetere, who are originally from Whangārei but now live in Perth, went to hospital to see their cousin.
"We were pretty freaked out ... he didn't look very well at all," Banks said.
Larkin wanted to thank the person who had saved his life so Banks arranged the meeting which was also reported on by the Australia news station Channel 7.
"We listened in the interview and asked heaps of questions. We realised Ben without a doubt saved Pat's life."
Maher said the survival rate for cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting was negligible.
Larkin had confirmation last week during a hospital appointment he will not be able to drive trucks again but was determined to remain in the trucking industry in some form.