JACKSON - First, it was the shortness of breath. Then Derek Claar's heart started racing out of control.

There were still 11 minutes left in the game between Jackson County Central and Marshall, but Claar could not continue refereeing the game. He walked slowly toward the baseline, stopped for a moment, placed his hands above his knees and then knelt to the floor. 

Alex Hein, the head basketball coach at Jackson County Central, then noticed Claar place his hands on his calves.

"We saw him grabbing at his leg," Hein said. "We figured it was a pulled muscle."

But Claar didn't get up. 

Another official came over to tend to him, and it then became apparent the situation was much more serious. A 911 call was placed, and an automated external defibrillator — known commonly as an AED, the heart device — was brought to the floor. 

"It got really scary there for a second," Hein said. "You're thinking, is this guy, is he dying? You don't know what's going."

Within 10 minutes, a stretcher arrived, joining a team of doctors and first responders who had surrounded Claar.

"Basically, I just kept telling myself, 'OK, be calm, you're gonna be fine. You're gonna be fine,'" Claar said. "That's what I kept telling myself, saying, 'just get through it.'" 

Claar knew to remain calm because he's been on the other side. He's not just a referee; he's also a sheriff's deputy.

"It was weird," Claar said, "for the tables to be flipped."

First responders eventually ushered Claar away to the hospital, where he spent one night before being released. Without getting into specifics, Clarr is referring to the episode as a medical emergency.

It was one that Jackson County Central was prepared for.

"Thankfully, we had protocols in place, and people stepped up," Hein said. "I think it helped a lot... Our athletic director knew right where to go, he got the AED, and we knew there was a police officer nearby to come help out before the ambulance got there."

Ultimately, the AED wasn't used. 

But it was reassuring that Jackson County Central was able to execute an emergency plan on a moment's notice. 

"To have that protocol and have contacts in place, and know where personnel was, it made it go so smoothly," Hein said, "and it played a big part in saving his life or helping him get to where he needed to go."

Claar is still meeting with doctors, but he's back to work as a deputy.

And he wants to eventually return to the court as a referee, too. 

"I'm very grateful for the trained responders that we have in this community," Claar siad. "Just, thank you to everybody."