While serving as a Sister of St. Francis since 1960, Sister Damien Hinderer’s ministries have included teaching; assisting in the Sisters’ health care facility; maintaining computer, medical and banking records – and in her spare time she has been saving lives.
The Cincinnati native has been donating blood and platelets since 1961 when another member of the community was critically ill. Sister Damien answered the call by making her first donation at Margaret Mary Health. That was 58 years … and 80 gallons ago. That’s right, on Jan. 16, Sister Damien was recognized by Hoxworth Blood Center in Cincinnati for her 80th gallon of lifesaving blood, platelets and white cells.
Cara Nicolas, Hoxworth Blood Center, University of Cincinnati, associate public information officer said, “Our blood supply depends on the time and generosity of volunteer donors, so people like Sister Damien are truly the embodiment of ‘lifesavers.’ Platelet products are especially in demand, as platelets have a shelf life of only five days and are critical in the treatment of cancer patients, trauma victims and transplant recipients. Sister Damien’s donations have likely saved hundreds of lives in the Tristate area, and for her to reach 80 gallons is an incredible milestone that few others have accomplished.”
Indeed, her achievement has only exceeded by two men in Hoxworth’s history.
In addition to MMH in Batesville, her donation sites have included hospitals in Indianapolis and Richmond, and Cincinnati’s Hoxworth Central, with the majority of her donations being made at Hoxworth’s Tri-County and Western Hills locations, where she is on a first name basis with the staff. Based on the need during each visit, the woman normally gives platelets twice each month, which takes about 75 minutes; unless she is needed for a white cell donation, which is only given to children and takes about three hours.
When asked what it’s like to give blood, the Oldenburg resident replied, “I know when I give platelets or white cells that within 24 hours someone who is very ill will have a part of me helping them to heal. I like to think it may cure them or at least be a part of a cure, and that it will let them know someone really cares about them. I leave the blood bank with such a good feeling of giving hope.”
The eldest of six went on to explain, “Giving blood products really does save lives. And that needed blood has to come from other human beings – there is someone very ill that needs you to give them hope.”
She further noted, “White cell donors are all platelet donors, and are well known to the Hoxworth staff. To be considered, you must have a matching blood type and match at least four of the child’s six human antigens. If the child is CMV, or cytomegalovirus negative, the donor must also be CMV negative. More than half the world’s population is CMV positive. Very small, young children have never been exposed – so they are still CMV negative, thus they need a CMV negative donor – and I happen to be CMV negative, and thus in demand for such donations.”
Normally donors are not made aware of who the recipient is, but Sister Damien shared one exception. “In the early ‘80s, while I was giving at the former General Hospital location, I just happened to see the name of the little girl, Emily Brehm. I was familiar with the Brehm family as they had siblings in almost all the same grades as my siblings. My sister Louise’s best friend, Janet, had asked us for prayers for Jerry and Karen Brehm’s daughter Emily, who was very ill. When they discovered Emily received my platelets, they wanted me to meet her. Emily was just so thrilled when I came to their home, but God needed her and she went to her heavenly home at age 5 and a half. Attending her funeral was one of the most difficult things I ever did.”
The Franciscan Sister added, “Donors receive compliments when they meet someone who had or still has an ill family member. Locally, when Mary Ann Rennekamp of Oldenburg saw me for the first time after her hospital stay, she just could not thank me enough for donating. Mary Ann shared that she prays for all who donate as she knows us as lifesavers.”
Sister Damien is a graduate of Marian University, where she majored in education with a minor in math; and the University of Cincinnati, where she earned a master’s degree in education. Her past ministries include teaching positions in Missouri, Ohio and Indiana prior to returning to Oldenburg in 1977 to serve as a health care aide in St. Francis Hall. In 1980 she helped automate the Sisters’ payroll, banking and medical records systems and continues offering data processing and mail room services at the Motherhouse.
The Franciscan Sister is a living example of what St. Francis of Assisi taught: “It is in giving that we receive.” Her lifetime of giving has given hope to patients throughout the Tristate hospitals in Hoxworth’s service area, including Margaret Mary Health, and the personal satisfaction she has received is beyond measure.
Sue Siefert is the Sisters of St. Francis Office of Congregational Advancement director.