M. van G., born in 1945, contracted polio just before her first birthday. She was the first Bugnet patiënt in the Netherlands.  M. van G. studied theology and music and had a working life in both areas. She is married with two daughters.


"BUGNET makes me happy."

The book about Bugnet has been dedicated to the ‘I' in the story below, "because her positive reaction to the Bugnet treatment method has lead to the definite design of the publication".

I got polio when I was 11 months old. When I recovered from the illness I could only move my head and my right hand a little. The rest of my muscles were paralysed. Luckily my respiratory muscles were not affected.

I had a very special mother. She turned the play-pen over so that I could lie higher. I then had more contact with my sister and brothers. I was the fifth child in a family of six children. When my youngest brother was born, my mother was glad that he wasn't a girl because I could see myself as myself and not make a comparison...



If muscles don't move, they atrophy. And if you can bend your hand but not extend it, it will become crooked. I grew crookedly which worried my mother. “Her brothers would have to look after her later and so she mustn't be deformed", she thought. She looked for methods of physiotherapy. And so Margreetje went to Switzerland when she was three years old to exercise with a woman. All her will-power was needed for this. She wanted to because she was a willing girl, but she couldn't meet the demands that were required of her because she was too seriously paralysed. She reacted to these demands by having nightmares, sometimes 20 times a night!

My mother continued to look for a suitable method. She took photos of me with her when she went to talk to a doctor or physiotherapist because I was too weak to go with her each time. When I was 5 years old she encountered Madame Bugnet. It became clear very quickly that this was it: after 3 months of treatment with Bugnet the nightmares disappeared and I fell out of bed and broke my leg. After all a guard had never been necessary before because I couldn't move but now my back was stronger.

From the moment of discovering "Bugnet" I was the fall guy. Practice, practice and practice again! Mrs. Bugnet seemed to be fond of me because she spent whole afternoons picking at my Achilles tendons while I lie on my stomach on the beach. I remember her vaguely; she was a good-natured, sweet lady who unfortunately died when I was six. I inherited a pretty embroidered bag from her.

My time at primary school required an iron discipline. We got up a 6 o'clock in the morning and I bathed in borax to soak my contractions. In the meantime I ate my breakfast. Then the exercise programme began. Of course loosening all the contractions first; that took an hour. Then at least half an hour of strengthening exercises.  Many fixations were brought about by technical means, but not all of them. Human force was needed for this. I thought it quite normal for five people to be touching me sometimes! (3 for the fixations, 2 for the manipulations; look at the picture of the exercise J 14 on page in the Dutch book 209). Family members and personnel were involved daily. When one of my brothers who could play the piano well said he couldn't help with the exercises because he had to be careful of his hands, my mother said: "Well then, you can dress her and undress her".  There was no stopping my mother. I was often late for school because we had practiced for too long. Naturally I wasn't punished because she had cleared it with the headmaster. It was also agreed that I only had to go to school in the mornings so that I could practice the whole afternoon! New sums were therefore explained in the morning.

I hated all those exercises!! Luckily we were Dutch Reformed so Sunday was a day of rest. You can understand why I still have a party feeling on Sundays. My mother used two sentences to comfort me which were very useful to me later in my work as chaplain: 

‘Good job you aren't a centipede' (when we had had both legs + 1 arm and it was the turn of the other arm) and ‘Every day a thread is a shirt sleeve in a year'.

My mother of course wanted to know more about the Bugnet method. Before she fell asleep in the evening she would bury herself in physiology and anatomy books because she had to know why something worked. When I was at school she would go to a nearby hospital to treat other polio patients.

Nevertheless she didn't forget to look after the psychological aspect.  When I was 12 years old I had to go to Denmark for orthopaedic operations. My mother asked a rehabilitation specialist there whether she was doing the right thing by not putting all the emphasis on physical development during my secondary school time but leaving time free for spiritual development. The doctor confirmed her vision. And so it was that even though I got up at 6 o'clock to do my exercises I could leave for school on time and I was free in the afternoons for homework and friends. Of course it was arranged with school that my class had gymnastics in the first period so that I could exercise for longer a couple of times a week! My mother took less notice of me in normal things, "because she shouldn't be tied to the apron strings". That worked because I soon said I wanted to study in Groningen because it was a long way from home.

The family I grew up in did lots of sport and music. In my third year I received a recorder, as an exercise for my hands. I had piano lessons from the age of 6, whereby one arm was stuffed into a sort of torture apparatus. When I was 11 my oldest brother thought that the trumpet could possibly be for me because you only need three fingers to play it. My mother didn't like the idea at first because she considered it an unlady-like instrument, but badgering helped and because I couldn't lift the trumpet by myself I had a sort of frame to support the trumpet. I had a fantastic trumpet teacher, who also taught me to love music. I played in an orchestra in the second year of secondary school to honour the school's anniversary. When I was 17 I thought I would start singing because you don’t need limbs to do this! (this sentence is of course a curse for Bugnetters). I can remember very clearly that I asked my mother for singing lessons by telephone because she was on holiday in Switzerland with my father at that time. "Yes you may, but only on condition that you still play the trumpet", she said, because she had realised that it was a perfect breathing exercise.

I knew from the age of 14 that I wanted to study theology. Not to become a clergyman but out of interest. When I had taken my leaving exams my mother starting trying to convince me to choose a different subject, something I could earn my way with. I started studying classical languages in Amsterdam but studied Hebrew on the quiet. At Christmas of my first year I told my parents: ‘I still want to study theology'. They agreed to my changing but only on the condition that I passed the state singing exams, which my singing teacher had said was possible. No sooner said than done; in turn I did one exam after the other. When I was 23 I had the required music diplomas and when I was 25 I had done both the Master's theology and the church exams at the Remonstrant Seminary.

During my study period I exercised 3 x per week helped by my brothers and friends. To my mother's distress I limited the exercises to what I found to be necessary to live. Later I started swimming in warm water again once a week at her insistence.

My piano-playing brother studied in Leiden but had piano lessons in Amsterdam, where I studied. We gave a concert together at his teacher's house. I was 20 and had had singing lessons for 2 years. Naturally I was nervous about the performance and I said that only strangers should sit in the first row. A friend of my brother from Leiden sat there and shortly afterwards we became an ‘item' and we married 2 years later. Coincidentally he also studied theology; the music was however our connection.

My husband graduated 1 month before me. We agreed that we each would follow whoever found a job first. I nearly had a position as chaplain in Het Dorp (Arnhem); unfortunately they considered me too inexperienced for the function. My husband started working in The Hague as a clergyman and I started giving singing lesson at home. I also went into the country with pianists to give concerts.

I needed help with the housework and bringing up our 2 daughters of course. We were usually lucky and it was useful to work at home. It did happen that my students had to fetch the children from school if there was no help.

When our oldest went to secondary school I thought I should help her with her homework. I foresaw that I would not have enough patience if I continued to give lessons and I sent many students to other teachers. At Christmas of the first year my daughter brought home a brilliant report and told me straightaway that she would no longer be making use of my services. There I was left behind with my good intentions: no students anymore and no new job! Friends pointed out an advertisement for a chaplain in a nearby hospital. I applied and got the job; this when I was already 38 and had never worked as a clergyman! A real miracle, which I enjoyed immensely because it was work that I really wanted! I have worked in music for 14 years and as a clergyman for 20 years. The latter in various settings: hospitals, nursing and care homes and in my own congregation. When I was 58 I retired because it was possible in the health care world. All through the years I exercised just enough to be able to live well.

When I was 44 years old I started to experience pain in my back and neck. I went to day rehabilitation for 4 months for 2 days a week. The physiotherapist arranged that I should get a standing table. I kept it but got rid of the rest. (My mother had died in the meantime). When I was 50 I went to rehabilitation again for a short time to see how I would cope with old age. That resulted in a relaxing-chair which is good for reading in. I swam every week up until one and a half years ago. I stopped because one leg no longer worked at all because of the post-polio. I can still sit for the whole day and I tear around in my electric wheel chair. I often hear about other post-polio patients with cramp; it doesn't trouble me. I suspect that I am doing so well because I had Bugnet. I do think that I will be a difficult resident in a nursing home later because I will always want to be straightened up or laid down! The feeling of pleasure being straight gives will not leave my brain... 

I also think that I have been spiritually healthy because I had Bugnet. It does make a lot of difference to an exercise if you have the feeling that you can do it. You build up an identity. You become able-bodied through all that work against the resistance. The reason that I have always felt safe is that my whole family has helped with my treatment. When an occupational therapist told me to try harder when putting bands around my legs for an independent transfer (which didn't work) during rehabilitation, I went to my sister and brothers and asked whether I was right, that I wasn't being ridiculous... Of course they confirmed it. 

You also learn to take each other into consideration in such a large family. My brothers always had to carry me upstairs to bed in evenings. I would offer to go up earlier than necessary if they wanted to go to the cinema. My mother ensured there was always room in the circle for my wheelchair. My brothers were told to always pick things up for me if I asked. Even if we were having an argument the rule still counted.

The fact that I had such a wonderful home made it easy for me not to make too many or too few demands on my children later. They didn't have to stay at home for me but if they were at home and I needed a transfer to the lavatory, for example, then they had to help.

In my profession, spiritual guidance, space-making is very important. People can relax and experience space through intense attention. A chaplain needs immense inner space to be able to cope with the different visions he encounters.  Of course I cannot prove it but I think that I have got a large capacity for sensitivity and a feeling for fine nuances through Bugnet. And I give thanks for it every day!


                                                                                  27 August 2006


At age of 3 yearsAt age of 6 years and 1 jaar Bugnet therapy
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