At home after his bike ride along Bainbridge Island, Tim grimaced in pain. Heartburn, maybe. But the pain increased and began radiating down his left arm. “Lorna, I might be having a heart attack,” he said to his wife. He called 911 and laid down on the sofa.

Upon arrival, Bainbridge Island Fire Department paramedic Jeff Milsten saw Tim’s ashen face; he was in obvious distress. Aware that Tim’s condition was severe and that time was of the essence, Milsten started an IV and hooked Tim up to the defibrillator, a device that can both analyze the heart and deliver an electrical current to restore a normal rhythm. 

Time was critical, so an Airlift Northwest helicopter was dispatched to transport Tim from Bainbridge Island to a Seattle hospital. On the way to the helipad, Tim lost consciousness. Milsten and his crew started CPR and for the next 45 minutes tried to get a pulse back, shocking Tim 10 times with the defibrillator.

“There was life. Tim was not ready to leave,” Milsten says. The monitor showed electrical activity in Tim’s heart. “The heart was trying as hard as it could, and we couldn’t give up. That was one of the signs that told us we still had the tools to make a difference and turn it around.”

Annually, over 850,000 people die from cardiovascular disease in the United States, which includes various cardiac emergencies, such as heart attack and cardiac arrest. Heart attacks happen when a clot stops the heart’s blood flow, while a cardiac arrest occurs when there is an electrical malfunction in the heart, causing the heart to stop beating effectively. Both can lead to death if not treated properly and quickly.

Lifesaving lessons

When emergencies happen, highly trained paramedics save lives. Paramedics provide advanced lifesaving measures, treating individuals suffering from severe medical and traumatic emergencies, such as heart attacks, strokes, and more. Last year, King County paramedics responded to over 42,000 calls for life-threatening emergencies.

Through the Medic One Paramedic Training Program, our region’s paramedics receive some of the best and most comprehensive training in the world. Milsten is a recipient of this incredible training, using the knowledge and tools he acquired during the long and intensive program to serve people who live in the Bainbridge Island community.

At graduation, Medic One paramedic students have logged more than 2,100 hours of clinical, classroom and field experience, almost double the national recommendation of 1,100 hours. Each student will also care for over 650 patients — three times the national average — suffering from cardiac arrests, trauma or other life-threatening illnesses.

The King County Medic One tax levy provides the basic infrastructure, including paramedic salaries, vehicles, equipment and supplies. In other words, the county levy puts the men and women in the trucks, and the trucks on the streets. But it’s the Medic One Foundation, founded in 1974, that funds the Medic One Paramedic Training Program, which teaches paramedics to act and think like a well-trained doctor would on the scene of an emergency, saving lives through improved pre-hospital emergency care.

But EMS agencies around our region are facing a current and future staffing shortage of paramedics.

“There is an overwhelming need right now to train more paramedics,” says Dr. Andrew M. McCoy, Program Director of the EMS Fellowship at the University of Washington’s Emergency Medicine Department and Medical Director of American Medical Response.

“Our goal is to ensure that King County and surrounding communities have the optimal number of Medic One paramedics needed to respond to medical emergencies like trauma, cardiac arrest and stroke that threaten the lives of thousands each year,” McCoy says.


A new day

After flying to the Seattle hospital, Tim underwent surgery for a blocked artery. Due to the care received that day, Tim can share his story.

“I’m very appreciative to the folks that worked on me, people that came to my house, took me to the helipad and performed CPR on me. How do they do that for 45 minutes? I’m really appreciative that they didn’t give up,” says Tim. 

“I’m just really, really grateful that we have Medic One. It’s really important because they have that training, all those medications, and the ability to not give up,” says his grateful wife, Lorna. “If you want the very best care, the training has to be there.”

Medic One Foundation saves lives by improving pre-hospital emergency care. Since 1974, we have invested $30 million in paramedic training, research to improve patient outcomes, equipment to help fire departments save lives, and CPR/First Aid training for citizen responders.