At 78, volunteer Hinda Litman now has a shock of snow-white hair but retains the same joyful energy she brought to University of Minnesota hospitals more than 35 years ago, when she first volunteered as a patient visitor. Since then, she’s worked in the surgery lounge, with hospice patients, and now in the Masonic Cancer Clinic—wherever there has been a patient in need, Litman has shown up.
Mary Sumpmann, M.S., R.N., the Masonic Cancer Center’s associate director for administration, describes Litman as “a tenacious bulldog” when it comes to making sure patients get what they need, whether it be a little extra TLC, help navigating the hospital system, or a quick snack.
“Hinda’s the one who people go to if they need a shoulder or an ear,” says Sumpmann, “because she always takes the time to get to know the patients and their families. It’s not her job to be here; she does it because she’s passionate about it.”
What most patients don’t realize is just how far Litman will go to help the people who cross her path. For one young woman who had lost a leg to osteogenic sarcoma, Litman arranged a trip to Disney World, personally supplying spending money and airfare. She has organized similar trips for other patients over the years, never hesitating to dip into her own pockets to make it happen.
Once, when she realized the mother of an out-of-state patient couldn’t afford a hotel room in Minneapolis, Litman brought her home, where the woman ended up staying for more than a month.
“Everyone should be so fortunate to have a volunteer like Hinda,” says Jean Jacoby, executive assistant for administration at the Masonic Cancer Center.
So what has driven Litman to spend more than 22,000 hours volunteering at the University?
“My father got cancer when I was young and had to go to New York for treatment,” she recalls. “My brother went with him, and there were so many people there who helped them. I remember thinking, ‘That’s what I want to do one day,’ because I could never forget how those strangers helped our family.”
So every Monday, Litman heads to campus to help with the lung transplant support group. Then she comes back on Wednesdays and Thursdays to staff the information desk at the Masonic Cancer Clinic, sometimes putting in 10-hour days to make sure everyone gets taken care of.
“I always think on the way home how lucky I am,” she says. “I see so many people who aren’t doing as well. I tell my grandkids, ‘Don’t complain! Every day is a gift!’ And if the house has a few cobwebs because I’m at the hospital, well, so be it. You have to have perspective about what’s important.”
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