Reiki Volunteer’s Generous Spirit Keeps Flowing

Deborah “Debbie” Bator was passionate, especially about helping people. Her brother Michael Kamal says she was born that way.

“There was just never a time when she was not excited and happy to share her joy with others,” he says. “The amazing thing is after she got sick and had a near-death experience, was in a coma for a while, had right atrium failure, and was physically exhausted—she never lost this effusiveness.”

Bator’s enthusiasm was especially appreciated at the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital. As a volunteer and certified Reiki practitioner, she was a gifted healer and a strong, proactive advocate of the touch therapy.

Even as her health continued to be a challenge, Kamal says, Bator’s devotion to helping people through the hands-on relaxation technique never diminished.
“It certainly repurposed her life as her health was failing,” he says. “She’d painstakingly get herself ready and drag herself to the car and go and do her Reiki volunteering” for patients at the Cancer Center, including hospice patients.

Sadly, Bator, who was from Willington, passed away in April 2020. To honor her uplifting spirit, her family is raising funds to support one of Bator’s greatest passions, the Reiki program at Hartford Hospital.

Punyapriya Gopal, coordinator of the Reiki volunteer program, says Bator not only volunteered but “stepped up to represent Hartford Hospital at any chance for Reiki volunteer opportunities in the community.”

And she did it all with a passion for helping people get better.

Donations to the Debbie Bator Memorial Fund will be used to recruit and train Reiki volunteers, support paid-staff Reiki sessions for patients, and provide community outreach and education about Reiki.

According to Gopal, the Reiki Volunteer Program at Hartford Hospital started in 1998. It is the nation’s first and longest-running hospital-based Reiki program. Run by Volunteer Services and the Department of Integrative Medicine, the program has hosted more than 170 volunteers and charted more than 75,000 Reiki sessions.

“Where our program stands apart is that it has extremely detailed, comprehensive, ever-evolving guidelines to ensure that there is a seamless merging of cutting-edge science with a holistic therapy like Reiki,” Gopal says. “For example, a patient who has just finished a customized radiation therapy session receives a Reiki session in the ‘Reiki Room’ right in the Department of Radiation Oncology. This approach ensures uninterrupted medical treatment and a timely Reiki session for reduction of anxiety.”

Bator’s family hopes the memorial fund will help make the holistic therapy more available. Kamal says Bator wanted to find a way to help more people through Reiki.

“In her perfect world,” Kamal said, “everybody who wanted Reiki [regardless of their ability to pay] could get it within a reasonable time period to alleviate their pain, their anxiety. So that’s really the key thing we’re trying to accomplish with this memorial fund.”