In the hotel where I lodged while in Hungary recently, there were quite a number of families also staying there who had children affected mostly from the devastating illness cerebral palsy.
The striking thing was that they were of all nationalities, and not just European. They were there from the US, South America, and Asia.
Hungary, despite all its problems associated with poverty as it struggles to adjust to a new situation within the EU, are to the fore in the field of therapy associated with children afflicted with the ailment.
The Peto Institute in Budapest, famed for its success in alleviating the symptoms and indeed greatly improving the lives of children with the condition, was near our hotel, and it was to there these families were either revisiting, or going there for first assessment.
An American father, there with his wheelchair-bound eight-year-old little boy, told me: "This is my third trip to Hungary with Alan, and the improvement in him has been miraculous in a little over two years.There is a great understanding over here about his condition. For instance, they were able to tell me after our first visit, that his brain is not affected, which was a joy beyond compare to learn. Now we sit and look into his eyes in the knowledge he knows us and all that is going on with us as a family. We converse with him and even though he cannot speak, we know by his squeals of delight and frowns of disapproval, that he understands and is participating."
He continued, "Over half of the children with CP(cerebral palsy) are born with their brains undamaged, and it is kids like this which have the best chance at being helped, naturally, and we are very happy that Alan is in this category. Youngsters with spina bifida fare even better, as they generally have more control over their motor movements."
"We have found that while there are no claims to outright cures for our children here, the thing which is startling is the treatment they receive. It is called "conductive education" - which teaches the children
how to move in ways never before attempted by them. The brain is encouraged to try, by the methods applied. Naturally,this is often excruciating for them initially,as they are made to work at it for up to six hours a day, five days a week."
This dedicated dad went on "The wonderful people who strive for our children here are called 'Conductors.' They don't go in for fancy names - all they desire is to show a degree of success for their expertise. When this happens, they are as overjoyed as ourselves."
This father, without an ounce of self pity or bitterness, uses most of his
financial resources and borrowings, to come to Hungary for at least three four week periods every year.
"The people I work for in the States are flexible enough, and our lives have become a balancing act. My wife, who is also employed, comes at other times when I might be under pressure to remain at work. All of this is something we have to do and while there is great expense involved, there is no other way. It's worth it. Just to see your child able to hold his head in a more comfortable position, or to attempt to put one foot in front of another, is all we ask. These simple steps forward give him a quality of life. We see it in his eyes."
Later in the swimming pool, he was there with Alan, and when he lowered him gently into the water, there was laughter and gurgles of glee gushing from him, as Dad ducked and splashed about with him.
It was noticeable how other swimmers easily shared in this very touching and most special of moments in the lives of a loving father and son. There was an unspoken understanding among us, and perhaps even an appreciation of one's own good fortune to have so much easier situations to cope with in life - a counting of blessings yet above all there was humanity shining through for that short time when we were all there together.
And it felt good.
USS Michael Murphy, named after Irish American Navy SEAL hero, heading toward Korea