Starting Small

Debbie Bauer

I have known Dr. Lauri Pramuk for over 25 years. I met her when our husbands worked together at Regis Jesuit High School. She was in her residency, I was applying to graduate school. They, along with the group of educators that my then-boyfriend was close with, introduced me to Jesuit thinking. The Jesuit ideal of “service with and for others” closely aligns with my belief in the Jewish commandant of doing mitzvot - good deeds. 

Years went by and I learned that Lauri had joined together with a Rabbi to create an interfaith program with Xavier University taking medical students to Guatemala. Combining the teachings of Judaism and Jesuit education was something I felt strongly pulled towards. I messaged her that I had always been interested in doing some sort of outreach program, this seemed to be an awesome collaboration, so if they ever had need of a pediatric physical therapist to please let me know. 

More years went by. Lauri and Chris moved their family back to Denver. I learned that Lauri was continuing her work in Guatemala with Regis University. I read about some of the amazing work they had been doing. I again let her know I was interested. 

With Covid, a small bit of silver lining occurred. Lauri messaged that this was the year I could join! They couldn’t take their usual student group, but still wanted to provide support to their community in Guatemala. I joined an amazing group of alumni heading to Coban, Guatemala to serve the community in ways I never would have dreamed of. Who would have thought a PT would ever collaborate with a dentist and use dental molding equipment to create a replica of a patients feet to make orthotics! We supported individuals and their families that presented with movement disorders, chronic pain, rare diagnoses. The people of this community are so incredible. There is no limit to their love and resilience. As a team, we came together to provide many Covid tests, dental care, medical care, even surgical care! I had the privilege of treating children, educating parents, and even was challenged by treating some adults. There were some patients we were not able to provide a medicine or a cure or a piece of equipment, but we were a supportive ear and a strong hug letting them know they are not alone in their drive for understanding whatever they are facing. 

One day, during a lull in patients, I was able to work with Diana, one of our talented interpreters. She has congenital hip dysplasia. Over the last year, after having her baby, she has suffered from increased pain and weakness and asked for some exercises she could do. I educated her, provided an exercise program and she thanked me so much, stating she would take this knowledge back to her own community and share it. That by helping her I had helped others too. 

That evening, at dinner, one of our amazing nurses, Therese, expressed her struggle with feeling ineffectual. She worries that our work here is a “drop in the ocean” of what is needed. We are able to help but a few, when there are so many that need it. She is not wrong. The team acknowledged her feelings and supported her, as we all held each other up at some point during the week. I thought back to my conversation with Diana earlier, and reflected that our small drops in the ocean create ripples. Ripples join together to make waves. Small waves become larger. 

Be the drop in the ocean, and, one day, together, we will create a tsunami. 


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