Dr Chris Hatton: The Man, the Legend.

As a general rule they like to stick to their code of omertà in the medical profession.  It’s extremely rare to hear one doctor making much comment about another: either positive or negative.  The only time I ever encountered any such ‘sharing’ I was having my Hickman line removed after completing my autograft stem cell treatment.  The radiologist performing the procedure spoke fondly of Chris Hatton, the consultant who oversaw my stem cell transplant.  He recalled a time that Chris had managed to walk out of a hospital wearing not only somebody else’s jacket, but a jacket that was about 2 sizes t00 small and wasn’t even the same colour as his suit.  Maybe I’ve embellished the details slightly over time, or maybe the chemicals have scrambled my brain, but I’m pretty sure that the gist of the story’s about right.  The anecdote was, however, prefaced by the radiologist relaying just how gifted a physician Chris Hatton is and just how highly he thought of him.  I think one expression he used was, “…brain the size of a planet”. And that was pretty much my experience.  Chris wasn’t somebody you could rely on to get to an appointment on time or necessarily have a 100% grip of his admin, but he had a fantastic gift for making you feel comfortable and ensuring you had an iron clad grasp of precisely what the treatment entailed. We met for the first time at the Churhill Hospital in Oxford.  I was pretty certain that I’d relapsed.  The biopsy route to a diagnosis had been abandoned and I’d gone straight to a PET scan to try and establish what, if anything, was going on.  My wife and I sat in the waiting room for a good while wondering if Chris was going to turn up.  I was almost at the point of abandoning ship and fooling myself into another day of cancer free life, or one more night of living in hope rather than expectation, when Chris finally appeared. The consultation started with some unintentional comedy.  I felt more like I was sitting opposite Chris Tarrant than a haematology consultant as Chris teased out the details of the diagnosis: “The scans are good” (Fantastic) “Better than I was expecting” (Brilliant, where’s the champagne?) “But, we’ve still got some work to do” (Ah, bollocks) It took an hour to outline the treatment plan for my relapsed Hodgkin’s.  Chris even wrote down a free hand sketch of a schedule that we could take away.  It was very simple – one side of  A4 with rough timings – but it was extremely useful, particularly in explaining the ins and outs to friends and parents.   I probably could have done without the exclamation mark after ‘Oxford – Stem Cell Transplant 28 days!’, but really that would be splitting hairs.  That was the abiding memory of the consultation though, ‘how bad is a chemo regime that you’re in hospital for a month?’.  The mind boggled. Fast forward to my follow-up consultation after the stem cell transplant and a PET scan to see if everything had worked.  My wife and I were sitting in the waiting room with another chap when Dr Hatton breezed in.  He looked confused, “Ah, I’m seeing you this morning Andrew and, oh, David you’re here too”.  Pauses for effect, “erm Andrew, if you don’t mind I’ll see David first as you’ll take longer”.  My face must have been a picture, because he immediately followed up with, “There’s nothing to worry about”.  I just about managed to scrape myself off the carpet and regain some kind of composure before we went in to discuss the PET scan results.

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