Longtime NKF&R medic hangs up rubber gloves

KINGSTON — A member of the North Kitsap Fire & Rescue medic and firefighting team has stepped down from nearly 13 years of service with the department for medical reasons, but may continue helping others around the world.

Tim Gates, a paramedic and firefighter with NKF&R since 1991, and the district medical officer since 1995, has decided to leave the department for health reasons. But even with more than a decade of life-saving, split-second calls, he said quitting was one of the hardest decisions he had to make.

“The opportunity to work here has been nothing less than a gift from God,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be called to help people in their time of need. To be able to make a positive difference on occasion is a real gift, really gratifying.”

The tall Kingston resident with salt-pepper hair and a quiet demeanor has recently had surgery to replace four inches of his aorta. Because of the procedures and his condition, Gates’ lifting power was severely hindered. Firefighters are required to lift at least 100 pounds, he said.

“I’m not able to provide patient care, which is what I got into the business for,” Gates explained, adding that despite this he sees it as an opportunity to continue his education to pursue clinical nursing.

“I want to get back to what I like doing most,” he said about patient care. Gates officially left NKF&R in March.

Clinical nursing in hospitals provides a more controlled environment whereas fire service is unpredictable. But hopefully with this new angle of patient care, the environment will still be in an emergency setting, Gates added.

“That’s what I’ve been doing all along,” he noted.

Besides working with NKF&R, Gates is also a member of the Portland-based Northwest Medical Team, which provides disaster relief around the world.

The Christian-based organization called Gates last week and offered him the opportunity to be a part of a team that will be sent to Iraq. The medic will get a definite answer this week. He has been a part of the team for several years, but this is the first time he has been called up.

“As a Christian guy, I think we’re called to love God and love people,” he said on why he joined the team. “I think this is a way to love people — just on the other side of the globe.”

In addition to caring for others in need, Gates enjoys camping and traveling with his family, wife Carol and children Hannah, 14, Abbie, 11, and Philip, 9. Before finding out about his medical condition, Gates and his family had traveled to Vietnam.

He said he feels great and swims several times a week, but as for the future, he’s not sure what’s in store.

“The future is an adventure,” Gates said. “I’m not sure what the future is going to hold.”

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