Lucky no. 14
Jim Spinner ’75 got a second chance — and he’s making the most of every minute.
For Jim Spinner, a 1975 engineering graduate, 14 minutes was the difference between death and a second chance at life. He sums it up this way: “I was gone, and now I’m back.”
On July 30, 2019, Spinner was in his office at Integ Systems Corp. in Danbury, Connecticut, when he went into cardiac arrest. Employees immediately began CPR and were soon joined by some contractors working onsite who were also trained firefighter-EMTs. Seven minutes had passed without a heartbeat when the paramedics arrived and took over. Efforts to revive Spinner seemed hopeless. His longtime friends and co-workers knew of his lifelong extreme fitness regime and implored paramedics to keep trying, saying, “He’s a tough guy — he’ll come back.” And after the 14th shock — and 14 minutes without a heartbeat — he did.
After an induced coma and 10 days in cardiac intensive care, Spinner was released from the hospital with the prognosis of a full recovery. “My cardiologist called me M&M. Confused, I thought of Eminem, the rapper. He said, ‘No, I mean Miracle Man.’ He told me I was the first patient my age he’s seen survive such devastation to the body.”
Spinner recognized that it took an entire community to save his life. Employees, contractors, paramedics, doctors, nurses and numerous hospital staff came together in his time of need. He also realized that the gift of more time came with the responsibility to use it wisely and pay back those who gave it to him.
“I realized I had unfinished business,” Spinner said. “I need to be here for my wife and our three adult children who are having trouble navigating through the coronavirus pandemic. I’m thinking of my business. I have some ladies and gentlemen that are not quite ready to take on the responsibilities of running a company like ours yet, but I’m mentoring them and trying to give them the tools to be prepared to keep providing for their families for 20 to 30 years to come. I’m not looking to generate more wealth for my family,” he adds, “I’m doing what I can to create a solid foundation for the younger employees so they continue to generate revenue and build a career for their families’ benefit.”
“I think it’s prudent to look to the future and provide the same sense of community and great education I received from UD to others.”
Spinner also knew he owed a debt of gratitude to the EMTs and medical professionals who saved his life. He made a donation to the local rescue squad. He and his wife, Pam (pictured above, holding scissors), made a significant contribution to Danbury Hospital that helped make it possible for it to build a state-of-the-art cardiac care surgical facility, with several supporting areas named in their honor. His thoughts also turned to the University of Dayton, where he believes much of his success in life began.
Coming from a middle-class family, he said attending UD was a financial struggle. “I had bank loans that my dad had to co-sign, saying ‘you better pay this back.’ I worked in the cafeteria so I could eat. I worked at Tim’s so I could drink for free. I got an internship at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that not only put money in my pocket but also gave me phenomenal opportunities to learn. I even worked at Miami Valley Hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit, causing me to briefly consider medical school,” Spinner said.
They established the Spinner Family Endowed Scholarship to provide second chances to students who need assistance to attend UD. The unrestricted funds let the University use them for students with the greatest need.
“The values I learned at UD stick with me to this day,” he said. “My strong teamwork mentality was developed while playing for the rugby team in the mid-’70s. UD promotes community, kindness, giving back and treating people the way you want to be treated, and I want to make sure that legacy continues. I think it’s prudent to look to the future and provide that same sense of community and great education that I received from UD to others.”
Spinner found a way to turn the 14 minutes it took for his second chance into endless opportunities for future generations of Flyers.