IT IS difficult to express in words the extent to which l have missed the community of Bulahdelah and its family environment.
You do not need me to tell you that Bulahdelah is a beautiful town.
More importantly, its people are warm, hospitable, kind and very appreciative.
You will by now be conscious of recent press coverage on my extended leave from Bulahdelah. However, I doubt that many are aware of what has actually happened.
As you know, from around September last year, I was confined in bed at home and then in hospital due to a nerve compression in my lower back, which led to four surgical procedures, complicated by meningitis and a serious infection.
The doctors were of the view that this could have serious and lasting effects, and I was therefore transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital to be kept under supervision and seek further medical opinion.
This left me bed bound until late February of this year. Until only recently, I have been completely dependent on my family for basic physical needs, and I am still unable to sit or stand for extended periods of time, neither can I do basic things such as putting on my socks and shoes.
As my family was bound by commitments in Sydney, I was unable to immediately return to practice at the town.
In order to meet financial commitments and to keep abreast with the practice of medicine, I decided to take up light duty employment in a medical centre, consisting of much fewer hours, no hospital or nursing home commitments, no medical emergencies, no on-call duties, and continuous support from my family. I thought that this would not be too strenuous.
However, I suffered a heart attack shortly afterwards (about four weeks ago), and was admitted to the Royal North Shore Hospital.
I obviously was unable to work during that time and have since reduced my workload even further.
I am still under intermittent cardiologist supervision and ongoing treatment.
At this stage, I cannot resume my full duties in Bulahdelah. However, I am optimistic that the outcomes of ongoing medical investigations in respect of both my spine and my heart, would indicate that I am fit to return to serve in some material capacity.
For this reason it has been difficult to provide a final answer about my ability to return at some future stage.
However, I did not leave the town in limbo. I expressly advised the hospital and the Rural Hunter Division of General Practice during my stay at the Royal Newcastle Centre, that due to the possibility that I would be unfit to return for at least an extended period of time, they should advertise for the position of a medical practitioner to initially fill my absence, and then share the workload on my return. However it appears that no replacement was actually obtained.
I publicly have set these events out in some detail not to win your sympathy, but because I wish that you would know that I have, for several months, been physically and medically unfit to resume my practice in Bulahdelah.
It saddens me to read comments such as these after having given my very best and after having made several sacrifices for the town and for the hospital for over two decades.
You may not know that I have literally been on call for 24 hours in the day, seven days a week, for 22 years, and have rarely had uninterrupted sleep because of emergency calls during almost every night.
My family has also felt the strain of this. We have chosen not take a family holiday to better meet hospital commitments.
Our only time away has been for medical seminars and serious family illnesses. Finally, in just the last two years, I have continued to work for the town despite the relocation of my family to Sydney for other pressing commitments.
But for my illness, I would certainly have remained in the town.
I apologise for setting out these details, however in the circumstances, I thought it necessary to reaffirm my affectionate connection to the town.
My two children have been raised in Bulahdelah and educated in its Central School. We have formed valuable friendships.
Again, I wish to reiterate my gratefulness to the town and its people for the support, kindness and generosity over the past many years.
On behalf of my family and I, Bulahdelah will always have a special place in our hearts.
I will regularly visit Bulahdelah, perhaps in a professional capacity as my health permits, but always as a friend, and a local.
Dr Adel Habashy