ICU specialist looks forward to a well-earned family holiday after bitter battle After four months, Tom Buckley can finally afford to relax. The intensive-care specialist who battled Sars at the Prince of Wales Hospital before being sent to Princess Margaret Hospital to continue the fight is looking forward to a three-week holiday with his family. After helping to stabilise the situation at the Prince of Wales, Dr Buckley was sent to Princess Margaret in mid-April to contain an outbreak in the intensive-care unit (ICU) that had laid low most staff, including the unit's director, Yan Wing-wong. Dr Yan is still on sick leave after being discharged from convalescence, but by the end of next week, Dr Buckley, acting chief of service of Princess Margaret's ICU, has been allowed to go on a well-deserved holiday. 'Sometime since June we have actually started living a normal life again,' Dr Buckley said last night from his home. 'Normal' means being able to hug and kiss his family, join them for meals and live at home without a mask. 'My family have been absolutely marvellous about the whole thing, especially the children,' he said. 'My wife has been very supportive. Obviously, it has been very difficult for all of us and we talked a lot about it and we resolved a lot of issues.' The New Zealand-born doctor, who has made Hong Kong his home for the past 15 years, was the acting director of the Prince of Wales ICU when Sars broke out there on March 8 and 9. His boss, Gavin Joynt, was attending a conference in Brussels when hospital staff began falling sick. On March 16, Dr Buckley sent an e-mail to a special list of 1,500 critical-care doctors. He began by writing: 'Dear all, we seem to be close to, or at the centre of, this atypical pneumonia [outbreak].' That first e-mail brought up to 800 responses from medics overseas, themselves grappling with a fast-spreading illness that was hitting health-care workers. '[They were] asking for more information, asking me to update them about what is happening because initially there was very little in the newspapers, very little on CNN, there was just nothing there,' Dr Buckley told the South China Morning Post at the time. When the Prince of Wales outbreak had stabilised by mid-April, Dr Buckley was asked by the Hospital Authority if he could go to Princess Margaret. 'I didn't really want to come. I was scared that having avoided contracting Sars at the Prince of Wales, I did not think I'd be so lucky a second time. And what we heard about Princess Margaret was that many staff in the ICU had contracted Sars,' he said. Four of six ICU doctors and 19 of 52 nurses had fallen ill. Dr Buckley made infection control his priority at Princess Margaret. He also had to train staff to replace those who had fallen sick. He stayed in the staff quarters for a few days before checking into a hotel for two weeks. When he went back home, his wife, private medic Rosemary, and their children, Ben, 13, Nic, 10, and Rachel, eight, followed the same infection-control routine they had adopted when their father was at the Prince of Wales. 'We just had to be careful how we interacted with each other by not sharing toiletries and food,' Dr Buckley said. In the early days of the Prince of Wales outbreak, he also did not go home, sleeping in the office. When he did go home, he wore the N95 mask. 'I sleep separately from my wife, I sleep on the couch, we open the windows, lots of hand washing, no hugging or kissing the kids,' he had said. On his return from holiday, Dr Buckley will remain at Princess Margaret, facing up to the new challenges. 'Obviously we are preparing for the possibility of the re-emergence of Sars,' he said, 'but hopefully not too soon.'