I wrote this a few days ago and I am posting it now after having gone to his beautiful funeral at the church..
Today I learnt that my dentist passed away. He had been in intensive care lately as a result of cancer, and his soul finally left his body last night.
Dr. Hany Habashi was not only our dentist. He was a gentleman in the true meaning of the word. A rare man that is difficult to find nowadays. He’s been my dentist since I was ten years old. I used to love going to his clinic and for a child who loves sweets, to not fear the dentist’s clinic is a blessing and a rarity. Dr. Hany was a calm person by nature. He always welcomed us with a big smile and a gentle shake of the hand. His clinic was always the cleanest and most comfortable clinic I have seen in all the clinics I have seen in my life. He had a corner with tea and coffee and sweets for children (quite strange for a dentist) and he had magazines that covered a variety of topics, including international ones you never find here, comics and stories for children.
I remember when I was little, he would always walk us through the process of whatever he was going to do to our teeth. He would explain every move and would tell us if something was going to hurt or not. I love sweets and chocolates and when I was little, I was sometimes taken from school to go and visit the dentist so I tried quite a few in England and later when we moved to Alexandria, I went to several.. Dr. Hany stuck with us, and I have recommended him to family and friends for as long as I can remember.
When Dr. Hany did a filling, he would first prepare us by telling us that it would be better to take temporary anaesthesia and he would show us the needle. He would assure us that it wouldn’t hurt a bit (and he has always been true to his word). He would put a sort of flavoured paste (that was also an anaesthetic) on the gum first. He would ask us what taste we preferred.. from strawberry to mint, to bubblegum to other flavours… and then after letting it rest for a while, he would inject the anaesthesia. We wouldn’t feel a thing. Then he’d work on the teeth and before we knew it, we’d have finished.
He only pulled teeth out when it was absolutely necessary. I still have all my wisdom teeth where quite a lot of people I know have had them pulled out. I remember a dentist we went to in Alexandria when we were children, Howaida, Ahmed, Nadia and I. We each went in one after the other and I had the good fortune to be the last to go in. He brutally pulled a tooth out of each of the others. I can still remember their screams. I doubt he even examined the teeth properly. When it was my turn I refused to go in.
Dr. Hany was not only an excellent dentist, he was a true gentleman. When my mother knocked a few of her teeth out a few days before my wedding, she called him on his day off and he immediately went to the clinic and did what he could to fix her teeth and saved her from excruciating pain and swelling. In several other occasions too, he helped people we knew outside of his regular working hours.. people in similar emergency situations.
Money to him was not an issue. Whenever he finished whatever jobs he did on our teeth, at the very end, we would pay him, even if it was months later. He would often tell us to pay him retrospectively, after our insurance companies had reimbursed us. Even now as I write this, I know that I still have to pay him for some fillings I did and I was told to wait a couple of weeks to make sure the filling was good (it was a complicated one) and then return to pay after they were sure everything was fine. I see this and I think of doctors who refuse to perform emergency operations until patients finish all the paperwork at the hospitals and pay a huge deposit, regardless of the urgency of the operation. The patient might as well die, the money and down-payment was the most important thing… where’s the Hippocratic oath here?
Dr. Hany established strong relations with his clients.. we were not clients. We were family. I remember when I was young and liked to play around with glass paints.. that I made a little piece of art with a smiley face full of teeth and he put it up in his office for quite a long time after that. I even considered becoming a dentist, I liked him and respected him so much.
I will always remember his clinic and his room. I had the privilege to always be treated by him even after he gave space to other dentists in his clinic. Over there they knew that we were Dr. Hany’s patients. We weren’t referred to the other doctors. If one of us went, he would ask about the rest of the family.. one by one, never missing any of us.. aunts and uncles and friends and all…
I shall remember watching old Arabic films at his clinic while he worked on my teeth or Ahmed El-Mosalmany’s program thinking I should watch a little bit of both more often, one to get my mind off things, and the other to become more knowledgeable about what’s happening in the country. The last conversation we had together was when I mentioned to him that I suddenly started to develop migraines and he told me that he had always had them and that the best way to overcome them was to get yourself a whiff of cold air or put ice on your head or if necessary even to put your whole head in the freezer. He had always had migraines and we never knew it. He had developed cancer and we never knew it. I saw him a few days before he was admitted to the hospital and he was his same sweet self. He never complained of anything.
I shall always remember his gentle handshake.. soft hands as a result of the latex gloves he always wore. He always took them off to shake our hands. His spotless, spotless clinic. His blue and white KLM village collection. His friendly staff.. also like-family. His kindness, generosity and calmness. But most importantly, I shall always remember his coming out to greet us with his lovely smile and extended hand whenever we approached his office. I shall truly miss him and I pray that God bless him and rest his soul.