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Essentially an Islander: Clayton Banry

  • Written by Janet Thomas


Clayton Banry is the morale officer at San Juan Island EMS. He is one of the many essential workers islanders are relying on especially during this pandemic. This is the sixth in a series Janet Thomas is writing about essential workers in the San Juan Islands. 

Q. Where were you born?

A. Anacortes

Q. How long have you lived on SJI?

A. 31 years.

Q. Tell us about your immediate family?

A. My family is everything. I love being able to go to them when I'm down, or happy, have a joke to tell, etc. My brother Britt is the oldest with two kids and lives up in Alaska where he works as a fisherman. Sam is the quietest. He's just two years younger than I am. Sam is very kind-hearted and very private. The funny thing about growing up with him was that people would always come up to us and ask us if we were twins, and still do, to this day. Sam is my closest ally because he's the only person who understands what I go through, which makes life so much easier. Lindsey is the baby. She was the athletic one and very competitive. Watching her play sports was a highlight growing up. She has a baby of her own and another one on the way. Gavin, her husband, naturally became a part of our family and he's one of us now. He just became a Physician's Assistant. He is a remarkable man and a great dad. My parents were high school sweethearts and had four children at a young age. My dad, Gordy was the wrestling coach for many years here on San Juan Island. My mom, Deanna, is the strongest person I know. She was an EMT for years. If she's not working, she's in her garden. The thing about family is, even though you don't always get along they are always there when you need them.

Q. How long have you been involved with SJI EMS?

A. Since October 2012, before joining I would spend time at the building.

Q. What inspired you to become involved with SJI EMS?

A. I was 23 when this happened. My brother Sam, sister Lindsey, and a friend of ours took a day trip to the zoo in Seattle. Throughout the day I was having chest pain off and on. Which is not uncommon for me. When I got home that night, it started getting worse. As time went on, I decided to go lay down on the couch in my room to see if I could sleep it off. Because sometimes that helps; but after 20 minutes or so the pain was unbearable. It was hard to breathe. My parents’ bedroom is next to the kitchen, so I went through the kitchen to wake my mom up. She was an EMT and happened to get up to respond to a 9-1-1 call. She saw me in the kitchen and when she heard what was going on, she called 9-1-1. I was having a heart attack. It's hard to put into words how I felt when the EMTs and medics showed up. Their skills and compassion made everything better. They kept me alive. How grateful I was for a quick EMS response. It made me want to be a volunteer and help the same organization that saved my life.

Q. What is your current role & responsibility with SJI EMS? A.

As the Morale officer, I plan fun association events and coordinate monthly birthday recognition for each member.

Q. What is the most important thing you learned from the EMS dept?

A. I learned to trust people I work with, to trust they saw me for who I am and that I could do things. I was nervous about it. Now I know they have my best interest at heart. I assisted teaching, spoke on topics, and received honest feedback. I learned we are all family.

Q. What do you want the public to know about SJI EMS?

A. The EMTs train twice a month. One of the training focuses on skills so that they can maintain standards and be good at what they do. The other meeting is held with Dr. Corsa, our medical director, who holds us to high standards and reviews cases and focuses on quality improvement. Management works hard to keep the organization running smoothly. We all work hard at what we do.

Q. What do you want others to know about coping with physical challenges in life?

A. I was scared to accept the fact that I had a disability. All I wanted was to feel like a normal kid or what I thought was normal. It caused me to have depression. I have become the man I want to be because I now know there is so much more to me than my disability and disorder and I hope one day people can see that. I'm going to keep moving forward and live the life I know how.

Q. What advice do you have for us in these difficult and challenging times that we are in globally?

A. When I was in high school, I had a doctor’s appointment for an earache and when I got there, we went to one of the back rooms. When the doctor came in, she sat down, right next to me and instead of asking me questions, the doctor talked to my mom. My mom looked at me and then back at the doctor and said, “Ask him.” So, finally she did. But the questions were more about how she can help with my disorder instead of what I initially came in for. Perception is not always as it appears, but TOGETHER we can move forward. Just know there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.


  • Juanda Krebs Thursday, 02 July 2020 10:29 Comment Link Report

    What an excellent position for an excellent person. I do not know Clayton very well but every time we see him and he sees us he has a smile. He doesn’t just smile but always stops to talk. Clayton is a great ambassador for the Island.

  • Juanda Krebs Wednesday, 01 July 2020 18:25 Comment Link Report

    What an excellent person for an excellent position. I don't know Clayton very well but EVERY time we see him he has a smile for us. He never just smiles and keeps going, he always stops to talk . What a great Ambassador for the Island.

  • Katy Nollman Wednesday, 01 July 2020 11:19 Comment Link Report

    Clayton, you are an inspiration to us all!

  • Diane Carlshagen Tuesday, 30 June 2020 20:26 Comment Link Report

    He is an essential worker and not only that an essential member of our community. Love you Clayton.

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