Yvonne C. (Charmaine) Ortega, M.D., Alumna - written in 2014
I remember the first day of school years ago at St. Mary's. We had moved from Massachusetts so my Dad could work with SAC HQ and all I could think of was how many "bugs" there were in this foreign state called Nebraska! We arrived in the middle of summer and boy was it HOT compared to New England!
I walked into 3rd grade that fall and my teacher was Sr. Rose Ann. She had the sweetest face I had ever seen, so serene and gentle, and she really made me feel at home. It wasn't long until St. Mary's was my permanent school "home." We had that huge playground and daily Mass with Fr. Krejci and Fr. Garvey. I especially remember our trips to the library where I would read books and dream about Fr. Damien on the island of Molokai and Fr. John Bosco from Italy. I also would read stories about a young boy growing up on the Yangtze River in China and his interaction with the priest missionaries there. And I could never forget the wonderful annual Columban Fathers festival fundraisers that we would participate and volunteer for!
But my 7th grade Biology class made the biggest impression, especially when we dissected frogs. I knew right then and there that I was going to be a white lab-coated scientist working in some form of biology lab. However, God had different plans for me, still white lab-coated but working as a physician with people instead of frogs!
I developed a strong basic belief in God and my faith at St. Mary's, and I credit it for giving me the blessing of having very few doubts in my faith. I had my rebellious years, but I have never doubted God's existence or even His love. This faith has helped me weather my own storms of self-doubt, personal tragedies, and even witnessing the life and death of my nephew Michael as he so bravely fought cancer. I remember walking into Mass as a child and seeing the men and women sitting on the side in perpetual adoration. I remember deciding then and there that when I grew up, I wanted to be one of them. To this day, I am in a parish with perpetual adoration that I participate in.
Every day that I walk into the ER for duty; I pray. This habit was developed from my many years in Catholic grade school (St. Mary's), high school (Mercy High), and college (University of Notre Dame). I know that much of my inspiration and intuition in caring for my patients comes from God. He guides my hands and my heart and heals me of the pain and weariness that I carry from my patients on my drive home.
And as for my fascination of foreign lands learned in St. Mary's library, I travel extensively, and do mission work in Africa and Haiti and fly around the world in international critical care transport. God does bless us in the littlest details of our lives! And it all came from St. Mary's Grade School in Bellevue, Nebraska!