St. Philip Neri members want to help parishioner who puts others first

FORT MILL—Donna Jean Hatch-Sher­lock is an active member at St. Philip Neri, cooks meals for Oratorian priests, and even finds time to enroll in graduate-level courses “for fun.”

On the surface, it’s a normal list of activities for the average busy per­son. But Hatch-Sherlock goes about her routine while also battling a de­generative form of multiple sclerosis.

“I have good days and bad days just like everyone else,” Hatch-Sherlock said this week. “Right now, there have been days where I haven’t been doing very well.”

Hatch-Sherlock, 63, who goes by her initials “DJ,” has become a fixture not only at her parish, but throughout the entire Rock Hill Oratory, in spite of her debilitating condition.

“DJ is a perfect example of a lay­person who gives herself tirelessly to the Church and the community,” said Oratorian Father Agustin Guz­man, pastor at All Saints Church in Lake Wylie. He met Hatch-Sherlock when she was part of a women’s group that prayed for the Oratorian priests.

“Her spirit, her faith and her efforts have been remark­able, with every­thing she’s gone through,” he said.

On top of the numbness, extreme fatigue and pain associated with her condition, Hatch-Sherlock is also overcoming the lingering effects of one of the worst cold and flu seasons to hit the state. She said her faith in God allows her to persevere.

“God has a reason for everything,” she said. “I don’t know why I’m hav­ing to go through this experience. But God does, and I believe one day I will know why.”

Hatch-Sherlock has dealt with MS since 1990, when she was living in Boston. She received the diagnosis shortly after her first husband died of pancreatic cancer.

“God helped me move on from that,” Hatch-Sherlock said. “I met and remarried a wonderful man and we moved (to the Rock Hill area) in 1998. He’s been so wonderfully sup­portive through all of this.”

Hatch-Sherlock also draws strength from the support of pa­rishioners at St. Philip Neri and her friends at the Oratory.

“What a wonderful group they are,” Hatch-Sherlock said. “I don’t know where we would be today with­out them.”

She recently learned of an experi­mental clinical trial specific to her condition that would suppress, if not eradicate, the disease.

“It’s a stem cell procedure,” said Hatch-Sherlock, who has a master’s degree in nursing. “Basically, they take out the (diseased) stem cells and they clean out your immune system, almost like a purification. Then they transplant the stem cells so the im­mune system can rebuild itself.”

If successful, the immune system will be free of any infected stem cells and, in effect, would reverse the disease’s conditions.

Through her research, Hatch- Sherlock has come across one such procedure on the East Coast, but it is expensive. By her most conserva­tive estimates, it would cost around $15,000. Even with insurance cov­erage, the expenses would run the gamut, including the stem cell trans­plant, an extra unit of stem cells, rehabilitation, and physical therapy, not to mention the co-pays, lab fees, and other miscellaneous costs.

Parishioners at St. Philip Neri and staff members at the Oratory have stepped in and started awareness and fundraising campaigns to help Hatch-Sherlock, who they describe as someone who has done so much to help others.

“I think it’s important that every­one is aware of someone who has shown excellent discipleship,” Fa­ther Guzman said. “This is a person who goes out of her way to take care of people and put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own. And we need to do what we can to help her in the same way that she’s helped so many of us.”

By Chip Lupo / Special to The Miscellany