Reminiscence by Ilona Székely
The late Ilona Székely was András Pető's leading 'handling lady' (kezelőnő). She was also mother to Ildikó Kozma who much later served as director of the Pető Institute.
Ilona Székely shared some of her memories of Andras Pető with medical historian Judit Forrai. Speaking of the first days of the Institute in Villányi út, Ilona Székely said –
The Institute opened in February 1950 – as Pető had planned. That was the time of the Heine-Medin [polio] epidemic. Ferencz Győző rang Peto from the László infectious diseases tell him that the hospital was full of cases from the Heine-Medin epidemic, and that those who were safely over the acute be taken away in order to make space for new patients. He wanted Peto to take them at his Institute an rehabilitate them there...
[Pető] sent me to the László Hospital, to the pavilion where the iron-lung patients were. There were six of them altogether. A doctor led me into the room – dressed in protective clothing, naturally! My task was simply to observe. I was not to breathe a word or move a muscle just be attentive and if I saw the initial stage of one of them starting to breathe unaided to point them out. Pál László and Pál Hideg* worked in our Institute after their recoveries.
I agreed with Dr Ferencz that they would start transferring the patients to our Institute. First they had to put the paralised patients, who were unable to breath, into an oxygen tent, and then into the fresh air for a minute of two so that they could practice the necessary motor functions. They would only contact us when the patients were able to breath with their own lungs, without the help of a respirator, whilst asleep. This is how the Heine-Medin patients were transferred to the Villányi út Institute.
There were also other Heine-Medin patients but they were not respirator patients. There were two rooms at the Villányi út Institute for patients from the hospital...
(Forrai 1999, pp. 94-95)
For more on Judit Forrai's collection of reminiscences:
For links into the post-war Hungarian polio epidemic: