• Flying to Europe
  • Were you beginning to wonder why you haven’t heard from us in so long? We have been so busy making news that it has been hard to find enough time to write about it. We warned you that we were off to Hungary and Austria for a couple of weeks. Perhaps you thought we got stuck there?
  • Mary Burns certainly had doubts about making it out of a few of the airports, but all is well as we catch up with accumulated work and move on to other projects.
  • Speaking of airports and traveling, as we struggled through long lines, security checks, broken escalators and delays requiring us to run to catch each plane, we thought of all of you. For Mary, this trip was much more difficult than the four she took right after 9/11. There was confusion and misinformation from airport personnel in the Los Angeles, Frankfurt and Vienna airports. If any of you have plans to fly to Europe we urge you to carefully check and double check everything well before going. Avoid transfers, if at all possible. Be sure you have a wheelchair waiting for you, even if you don’t usually need one. It will help you get through lines faster. Upgrading to business class also helps. Get to the airport at least 3 hours early for a flight overseas and try to avoid weekend travel. Oh yes, one final thought. Good luck!

  • Castle of Sumeg at Lake Balaton
  • After the hassles at the airports, it was wonderful to be greeted in Vienna by a smiling Dr. Janos Porszasz, our Webmaster, accompanied by other members of our group. Janos sheparded our two car caravan out of Austria, down to beautiful Lake Balaton in Hungary. We recuperated from jet lag by touring local castles, manors and restaurants. Tough job, but we did our best. Smoking was often the topic of conversation. To Californians unaccustomed to cigarette smoke, it sometimes seemed that everyone in Hungary was smoking. But, they were also eating gulyas (gouyaash). We happily joined in that national pastime! Did you know that gulyás is a soup, made with beef and not a stew? Whatever the main ingredient, it is always thick, delicious and spicy. If you are really brave, and want to go native, you can request that it be made extra “hot and spicy” and we guarantee you will get your wish. Add some super delicious local bread and you will have a complete meal!
  • The main purpose of our trip to Hungary was to visit the University in Szeged and the hospital at Deszk, on the Yugoslavian border. UCLA definitely does not look like this! Are you imagining grim, gray, Communist era buildings? If so, you are way off. The University dates back to the 1400’s and is surrounded by the charming university town of Szeged. The hospital in nearby Deszk, is one any of us would admire. It was once the country estate of a Count, and is surrounded by beautiful grounds with meandering paths, brooks, little bridges and a lake. Lovely!

  • The Cathedral of Szeged
  • There is no way to describe the hospitality and warmth with which we were greeted. (When was the last time you had your hand kissed!) The physicians in our group lectured the medical staff on the latest research improving pulmonary rehabilitation techniques. Mary Burns, accompanied by a lovely physical therapist as interpreter, worked with the rehab staff and a few patients. But, oh, how she yearned to have been better able to communicate!

  • Entrance to Deszk Hospital
  • This new pulmonary rehabilitation program in Deszk has limited equipment and oxygen facilities but is blessed with an enthusiastic staff eager to learn how to help their patients. Dr. Attila Somfay, who did research at Harbor-UCLA for one and one-half years, is the driving force behind this unique program. What is unique about pulmonary rehab? Lots, because except for the program of Dr. Jan Zielinski in Warsaw, Poland, it is the only one in Eastern Europe! With the guidance of Dr. Somfay, this new program is sure to become a model for Hungary, as well as for many other Eastern European states. They have some difficult problems to over come, including the familiar ones of funding. Another serious problem is the number of patients, and staff members, still smoking. But, these problems are not insurmountable, and are similar to those we faced here in California when we first started our pulmonary rehab programs.

  • Dr. Attila Somfay and Dr. Richard Casaburi
  • Besides rehab, this hospital is also unique in Eastern Europe in that Dr. Somfay has managed to get home oxygen, and even some portable oxygen, provided for his patients. Their important asset is an enthusiastic staff willing to exchange old ideas for new ones about the importance of exercise and breathing techniques. We hope this fine group will keep in touch to let us know about their progress and their problems. We wish them well!

  • Dr. Janos Porszasz lecturing at Deszk Hospital.
  • We all sighed with some regret as we piled into our two cars to leave Hungary for our next stop, Vienna and ERS, the European Respiratory Society conference. The hours of driving were well spent as these scientists took advantage of their time together. Current research was discussed and fine-tuned, while future projects were planned. Once in Vienna we all scattered to our various small hotels. With thirty-four countries represented by 14,000 attendees at this conference, housing was at a premium. But so was the opportunity to meet friends from other countries.

  • Do you have a question about respiratory disease that has been bothering you? If so, feel free to write and ask us, either through our web site or by mail. We answer all of your letters.