PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) - A Van Buren County sheriff's deputy was honored earlier this month for saving the life of a police officer who suffered a major medical condition aboard a plane.
Deputy Brian Mathews and more than a dozen Michigan police officers were returning to Michigan March 3 after attending a Drug Recognition Expert Program certification class in Phoenix.
During the flight, the Muskegon officer needed medical attention. The flight crew asked if there was a doctor on board, and after getting no response, Deputy Matthews -- a trained EMT -- stepped in and rendered aid to the officer.
"Just my training as a police officer just kind of kicked in and took over," Matthews told 24 Hour News 8.
Matthews used tools aboard the plane to craft a breathing mask for the downed officer.
Then he told the flight crew that an emergency landing was needed so the officer could receive more medical care.
Matthews continued to render aid until the plane landed in Des Moines, Iowa. The officer was then transported to a hospital and given the proper medication, all thanks to Matthews' quick action aboard the plane.
Matthews told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that the officer "could have been in deep trouble" had the plane not landed in Iowa.
The Muskegon officer needed specific medication within a three-hour timeframe. The time from when Matthews' started rendering aid, to when the officer arrived at the hospital was 83 minutes.
If the plane had not made an immediate emergency landing in Des Moines, the next closest airport was Chicago, according to authorities. The extra distance would have extended that three-hour window in which the medicine has an effect, and that could have resulted in severe consequences for the officer, police said.
The Muskegon officer pulled through and is now undergoing rehabilitation. Matthews had a chance to visit him Tuesday.
"I met his wife and his daughter," said Matthews. "Very, very grateful."
The Sheriff's Office awarded Matthews with a life saving award on March 14.
Matthews completed the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program to become 1 of 50 police officers certified as a drug recognition expert in Michigan.
He was chosen after completing the application process and interview with the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. After being accepted, Deputy Matthews attended a two-week long classroom instruction session at the Michigan State Police Training Academy in Lansing, followed by one week of hands-on education at the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, along with 16 other officers from Michigan.
Matthews is the first deputy from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Office that has completed this class. With the addition of these skills, he becomes a valuable tool for the county, authorities said.
The Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Program has received national acclaim for its success in identifying drug-impaired drivers. Forty-nine states and Canada participate in the Program. Although the focus of the DRE curricula is on the identification of drug-impaired drivers, DRE skills are applied to many different law enforcement activities. In addition, DREs are frequently called upon to differentiate between drug influence, and medical and/or mental disorders. The certified DRE is a valuable tool for combating the adverse impact of drugs on the communities they serve.
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