REACH Stories

John Briner

Appreciating the Good Life

John Briner

I never imagined that I’d be using this service,” says John Briner of his Cal-Ore Life Flight Membership. John and his wife Debi live in Gasquet, a tiny town in the northwestern corner of California. Just before Christmas, John had heart surgery. Although the surgery went as planned, he was advised that he might need defibrillation—“the paddles”—down the road. Defibrillation is used to restore normal heart rhythm in patients who go into A-fib, a common heart rhythm disorder.

On January 6, John knew something was wrong. He didn’t panic; he got in his car and drove to his cardiologist in Medford, Oregon—90 minutes away. Unfortunately, his doctor wasn’t at the hospital that day. “I couldn’t get what I needed, so I drove home,” John says. “I was feeling really bad. I thought maybe I was having a heart attack, so I asked my wife to take me to the hospital.”

Cal-Ore Life Flight Paramedics Marcus Tessler (left) and Daniel Johnson (right) provide life-saving service for their community. Cal-Ore Life Flight Paramedics Marcus Tessler (left) and Daniel Johnson (right) provide life-saving service for their community.
It was a breath of fresh air when Cal-Ore showed up to fly me away.
John Briner, Survivor

“It was a breath of fresh air when Cal-Ore showed up to fly me away,” John says. “I was really impressed with the crew’s professionalism, the way they handled the whole situation.”

Debi agrees. “The flight crew put me at ease. They were so sweet and calming, so professional. They walked in, calmed John down and got him out of there. And I got to go on the flight with him. They put me right up front with the pilot! It was a smooth ride, and the flight crew kept me informed the whole time.”

“Before I knew it we were in Napa,” John remembers. “Everything went smoothly. There was an ambulance waiting to take me to Napa Valley Heart Institute. They did an electrical conversion of my heart, and I’ve been fine ever since. After my surgery, the doctors told me I might need multiple conversions, but I only needed one.”

John’s voice is filled with gratitude and emotion as he shares his new outlook on life. “Something like this makes you do a life audit. I just appreciate being on this side of this of the grass. I appreciate my kids, my wife, everybody. I look at them differently.”

“It’s nice to know the Cal-Ore folks are out there,” John says. “And for the price, you can’t beat a membership. After my transport, I went to the website and made a comment, and I actually physically went to the Cal-Ore office.”

John was flown to needed care aboard Cal-Ore's Piper Cheyenne aircraft. John was flown to needed care aboard Cal-Ore's Piper Cheyenne aircraft.

So what’s next for the Briners? “This boy’s retiring,” says John, who has put in 34 years with the Department of Corrections, having worked at both Salinas Valley (Soledad) and Pelican Bay State Prisons. “And I have plans. I’m not going to be bored. I just had my first grandchild (Gina’s son Jacob was born on April 6), and I’m going to build a motorcycle.”

Debi laughs. “When we were first married, he kept the motorcycle in the house. Now we have a garage, so he can work in there.” John is perfectly happy with Debi’s rule. John is perfectly happy with Debi. “We’ve been married for 30 years,” he says. “I met the one I’m supposed to be with. We’re still growing together, so I figure the adventure’s not over.”

Cal-Ore is privileged to have been a part of John’s success story and wishes the Briner family many happy adventures.

John is happy to be back with Debi, his wife of 30 years, and grandson Jacob. John is happy to be back with Debi, his wife of 30 years, and grandson Jacob.
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