Even at OCC, She’s That Girl : Commercial, Illness Put Shine in the Spotlight, but She’d Rather Be One of Crowd


Jamie Shine has a simple request. So simple it doesn’t require anybody to do anything.

Her wish: “I just want to be Jamie.”

Problem is, not standing out isn’t possible for Shine, a sophomore forward on the Orange Coast College women’s basketball team.

“She’s such a great kid,” OCC Coach Mike Thornton said. “When you consider athletic ability, coachability, personality and overall attitude, she is the best person I’ve ever coached.”

Shine’s rise to Orange County-wide prominence started at El Modena High, where she excelled in volleyball, basketball and track and field.


She is also part of a very visible family. Her father, Tom, is the offensive coordinator for the Rancho Santiago College football team. Her mother, Brenda, teaches hotel- and hospitality-related courses at Orange Coast.

Casey, her older brother and best friend, is a junior tight end at Nevada, which won the Big West Conference title in the fall. He also was a standout athlete at El Modena and Rancho Santiago.

But she gained the most attention for her starring role in a television commercial for a health care organization. She and Casey were in the commercial as a result of her miraculously surviving and making a full recovery from bacterial meningitis. The illness, which occurred in the spring of her junior year in high school (1993), caused inflammation of her spinal cord and brain membranes.

At first she was thought to have the flu but got sicker and sicker until she slipped into a coma just after arriving at the hospital.

While the commercial--in which she and Casey talked about how the quick action of doctors saved her life--was being aired, Jamie said she was known as the “FHP girl.”

The campaign included a series of billboards across the western United States. Friends brought back photographs of such a billboard in Las Vegas.


Besides the commercials, Shine was the subject of several newspaper stories and featured on local television news.

“Everybody was saying that it was great that I was on TV,” Shine said. “But it was an awful way to get there. I didn’t want to do the commercial at first, but my mom talked me into it. They [the doctors] truthfully did what the commercial said. They saved my life.”

Shine spent a week in the hospital and about a day in a coma.

The incident drew the Shine family members even closer than before and also brought them in contact with hundreds of friends and others who were aware of Jamie’s illness.

The ordeal enabled Jamie, a born-again Christian since the eighth grade, to develop a new level of appreciation for life.

“It happened for a reason,” she said. “It showed me how precious life can be. I didn’t know that so many people cared for me. I didn’t look at it as a bad thing and wonder, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ ”

Brenda Shine still gets emotional when she talks about the illness and the trips she and Jamie have made to the hospital to thank those who helped to save Jamie’s life.


“I don’t think we ever took our good fortune for granted,” Brenda Shine said. “But now I know we don’t. I was just so impressed at how well [her friends] handled it and supported her, especially Casey. I would have never been able to do that when I was their age.”

By the summer of 1993, Jamie started to regain her strength. She returned to competitive athletics at El Modena the next fall. She performed well but never completely regained the form that earned her the Century League’s most valuable player award in basketball as a junior.

Still, she received some attention from college recruiters in volleyball and took a trip to Arkansas. She passed on the scholarship offer, however, because she said she wasn’t ready to give up basketball or leave her family.

Instead, she decided to attend Orange Coast College and concentrate on basketball. Finally back in top physical form and showing no side effects, Shine averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds and was an All-Orange Empire Conference selection last season. She also set OCC’s freshman record for rebounds with 330.

Just before the start of her sophomore season, Shine signed with St. Mary’s, thus eliminating any scholarship-related anxiety.

“It was good because I tend to worry about things,” she said.

“I miss her already,” Brenda said. “She’s my best friend.”

Shine’s early signing hasn’t made this a stress-free season, however. She is being asked to score more and isn’t comfortable with the request.


“Jamie’s such a nice person,” Thornton said. “She really hasn’t asserted herself like she’s capable. We need her to take 15 to 20 shots a game for us to be as good as we can be.”

The idea of calling for or having the ball that much is uncomfortable for Shine, who has already increased her offensive output considerably over last season. She averages 19 points and 12 rebounds and scored career-highs of 30 and 32 points in consecutive games earlier this season.

“I have to assure myself that this is for the good of the team,” Shine said about her role as scorer. “I hate selfish players. I think it comes from just growing up in a close family and always giving, and not concentrating on what’s good for yourself.”