Child patients at Sister Kenny Clinic, Brisbane, November 1938
News of the day

Telegraph, Wednesday 11 August 1926, page 12

Amid a throng of Interested spectators and admirers at the Exhibition, Mrs. H. Sterne introduced Sister Elizabeth Kenny, honorary ambulance bearer of Clifton, for whom is claimed a fine record of ambulance work during the Great War, her activities being chiefly on black hospital ships — that Is, ships that voyaged without light with wounded and sick soldiers. She did eight return journeys. Sister Kenny came to the show specially to demonstrate a patent ambulance stretcher which she designed as the outcome of her wide practical experience in this humane work. It is claimed for this device that a patient can be transported from the scene of accident to hospital with the maximum of ease and comfort, and be fully treated enroute by reason of the complete equipment of the stretcher, Including hot water bag compartments, and a series of hinged uprights to keep the bed clothes from resting on the patient. The base for the bedding is of solid wood, but rests on spiral springs, which are so constructed and placed as to prevent any jarring of the patient while travelling over rough country. Sister Kenny explained these details. She said that an Injured child, with both legs broken, was conveyed some distance to the Toowoomba Hospital, and after being 10 minutes on the road went to sleep, so easy and comfortable was the travelling. The child made a rapid recovery In the hospital under skilful doctors and nurses.

Among those present at the demonstration were the Governor General (Lord Stonehaven), Lady Stonehaven, Mr, Ernest Baynes (president of the Royal National Association), Mr. W. J. Affleck (chairman of the council), Superintendent W. I-I. Morse (Queensland Ambulance parent centre), and Captain B. II. B. Pike (general secretary, Q.A.T.B.).

Lord Stonehaven was much Impressed with Sister Kenny's lecture and the efficacy of her stretcher, and he tendered her his hearty congratulations. Similar sentiments were expressed by the president of the association.


With no formal qualifications in nursing, Elizabeth Kenny commenced treating medical patients from the family home at Nobby, on the Darling Downs, around 1910. The following year Kenny was faced with an epidemic of poliomyelitis, which she treated with the application of hot cloths. The recovery of her patients inspired Kenny to establish a small cottage hospital at nearby Clifton, and after service as a nurse on troopships during World War I Kenny returned to Nobby where she patented the ‘Sylvia’ ambulance stretcher in 1927. Kenny’s interest in poliomyelitis continued, and after opening an unlicensed clinic at Townsville in 1932 she began treating victims of the disease with a combination of hot baths, foments and, in contravention of accepted medical practice, passive movement of the limbs. Although shunned by medical authorities, Kenny began to receive considerable support from the Queensland Government and from 1934 numerous other clinics had been established in Queensland as well as interstate. Again backed by the Queensland Government, Kenny demonstrated her methods in America in 1940 where they became widely accepted. After receiving numerous honours and accolades in the United States, Kenny retired to Toowoomba in 1951 where she died unmarried the following year. Her career was marked by bitter controversy and, notwithstanding the eradication of poliomyelitis through the introduction of Salk and Sabin vaccines, accusations that Kenny was little more than a medical fraud have continued to the present day.


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