While the fate of the Emergency Medical Services levy on the April 17 ballot is up to the Gig Harbor voters, the fire department already has a very grateful supporter.
The former shop foreman and lead mechanic for , Kirk Putnam, said he’s lucky to be alive today—thanks to his wife and the Gig Harbor fire department.
In July 2008, Putnam suffered a cardiac arrest at his home, just a mile from the Purdy Fire Station.
Carol, his wife of 28 years, immediately called 9-1-1 and started CPR. The paramedics arrived soon after and rushed him to the hospital.
Putnam later learned that the cardiac arrest was triggered by a disease called sarcoidosis.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, sarcoidosis causes tiny clumps of abnormal tissue to form in certain organs of the body—for Putnam it chose to attack his heart. In fact, a third of his heart is now considered dead tissue.
He said most people don’t even know they have sarcoidosis, and it’s usually discovered in an autopsy.
“A lot of the doctors that I’ve talked to said that it’s amazing that I have any brain functions because I was down for 15 minutes, and it takes only lack of oxygen (for 4 minutes) to cause a major brain injury,” Putnam said. “The service they provide is unmatched.”
The permanent EMS levy on the April 17 ballot would restore Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One’s long-time funding to preserve current levels of service and fast response times. Requiring a "super majority" of 60 percent or more to pass, the measure would increase the levy rate to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
At age 48, Putnam is still recovering from the incident and eventually will need a heart transplant. As a result, he said it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be able to go back to work full time at the department’s shop.
Despite the setbacks, the father of two boys appreciates what Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One did for him.
"I most definitely would be dead. I would not be here had they not done what they did. I just can't comprehend the people that don’t understand the need for the levy to pass,” he said. “The fire department relies on the people as much as the people have to rely on the fire department.”
Putnam said the extra 15 cents for the EMS levy is well worth his life.
“You never know what can happen to you,” he said. “I can never pay them back for what they did for me.”
Watch the video to hear Putnam’s story.