The leader, doctor and factotum of the Theodora House elderly home in Kolozsvár/Cluj, Dr. Lóránt Szentágotai offers lodging and medical care for the physically and emotionally ill elderly. He manages a modern facility, which is a hospital and an elderly house at the same time.
Intensive care units and the monitoring system of the health of the elderly are this year’s acquisition, since Dr. Szentágotai is keen on providing the best service possible. But according to his elderly clients he provides much more than medical care: he also tries – with an immeasurable respect – to put smiles on the wrinkled faces. That is why he gained the name showing utmost gratitude from those in his vare: he is the doctor of the elderly and poor.
„I start my day with a very important and lengthy task, that lasts for 3 or 4 hours and it is also the most responsible one: preparing the 1,500 pills that are used by the 103 patients daily”, starts Dr. Szentágotai.
This is how all his days have started for the last 24 years. During these years he has never been on vacation and he scarcely had a night when he did not have an emergency with one of his patients.
L.SZ.: I was supplying a lot of aid after the Romanian revolution in the nearby villages and I saw that there are so many unfortunate, abandoned and lonely elderly. Young adults all left to work in the city or abroad. I felt that I needed to do something. This was the starting point, that made me open up this elderly house 24 years ago.
He built the Theodora House with the material help of relatives living abroad. The institution, that opened up in 1994 with two patients, is now the home for 103 elderly.
Lóránt Szentágotai cultivates a personal relationship with all his patients, for him the general mood of the inhabitants of the house is very important.
Mária Szabó, one of his patients praises him: Here everyone can find medical care, tidiness and attention. What else do you need at this age? Nothing. You need to have respect. Right? Medicines will not cure you. If you have peace of soul, than you have no problem. And here, if you need to find that, you’ll have it.
The doctor who works beyond human limits has been awarded honorary citizenship of Kolozsvár. But his real award is his patients’ love. When he guides us through the hallways of the building there is no wrinkled hand that doesn’t reach towards him. Many patients end up here in a coma or in a very severe condition, but thanks to Dr. Szentágotai and his team in a couple of weeks they usually feel much better. Graphic artist András Heim was brought to the Theodora House because of his severe heart condition. Besides the constant medical care and monitoring, the community life of the inhabitants of the house is what really matters to him.
András Heim, graphic artist: “After I finished work, I always felt the solitude. Even more so when I was working. I would have been happy if someone spoke to me or came in my studio or asked something. But I did not have any of that…Here, we have a wonderful doctor who cares for his people. I could not have all this at home by any means.”
The recently equipped home has an intensive care unit as well, where they care for terminal cancer patients. The house has a gymnasium and parlor, where cultural events and hand-made workshops are held. In the public space, on the shelves one can find the photographs, decorations, books and newspaper articles about the former notable inhabitants of the house. The purpose of Dr. Szentágotai is that all treasured members of the community should receive final respect in the institution led by him. He has beautiful memories of the great Transylvanian actor Endre Senkálszky, who died at the age of 99: I feel utmost happiness for caring for them. I will never forget, what Endre Senkálszky said when he was brought in. He said: my dear doctor, we will play the final part together. I asked: which one? He says: the Terminal.
L.SZ.: The hardest moment for me is when we have to say good-bye. Although I know, I am accustomed to death. My parents have died in my arms. However, it always hurts so much, when that moment comes. I always ask myself: couldn’t I have done more? Did we do everything for that person?
Most of the patients are visited on a weekly basis, but there are some people, that have no one left. Some of them have been inhabitants of the House for the last 20 years.
Dr. Szentágotai Lóránt commemorates the inhabitants of the house with an amazing collection of huge black and white posters kept in the dining room of Theodora House. The collection contains their most beautiful pictures.
L.SZ.: I entitled this exhibition Light and Shadow. If you think about it, life after the age of 80 or 90 is merely shadow but it still shines its own light. We would like to provide this light for all our elderly. No matter what condition they are in, no matter how mentally weak they are, they must feel that they deserve all the light.
Photos by Beáta Angyalosi