Pat Gordon would not have been considered a child to most when he was first referred to Children’s Hospital. It was just after the thanksgiving holidays that the 27 year old went to the doctor and a form of cancer was discovered in his hip. Doctors were unsure of what type of cancer Pat was suffering from so he was sent to the Mayo Clinic. It was here that Pat was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma and then referred to Dr. Jim Dearth at Children’s. Doctors told Pat that if he didn’t mind going to a children’s hospital, Dr. Dearth was his best bet.
Pat was determined to beat the cancer no matter where he had to go. He soon met Dr. Robert Castleberry of Hematology Oncology. Dr. Castleberry researched the protocol for radiation and chemotherapy for someone who was much bigger than the tiny patients he was used to treating. He would have to find a way to alter the medication they had to accommodate a grown man.
When Pat first came to Children’s he recalls receiving his chemo treatments in the lab because there wasn’t a clinic. Dr. Dearth decided it was time to build one for Children’s and he wanted to model it after the Mayo Clinic. However, he took the kids into special consideration and wanted to tailor the clinic to a younger crowd and make it more cheerful and welcoming.
Pat also remembers the nurses, “Everyone was always so nice, and in that line of work they had to be, they were dealing with kids all the time. They talked to me like I was an adult, but took just as much interest in my case as they did in the kids around me.”
In 1988, Pat found himself back at Children’s Hospital. He was coaching basketball at Briarwood Christian and told another coach to toss him a ball that had rolled down to the other end of the court. Just as the ball flew in Pat’s direction he turned his head and the ball hit him in the neck and broke it. He was rushed to the hospital and they found that the cancer had returned and had eaten away most of his C2 vertebrae. He was 36 years old now, and returned to Children’s because he knew they would take good care of him. The doctors were always positive and Pat believes that is part of what helped him stay optimistic toward a healthy recovery.
Then Dr. Dearth contacted Pat about a patient of his that was experiencing the same disease Pat had battled for so many years. Dr. Dearth wanted Pat to explain everything to the child and his family from his first hand experience. Soon, Pat was contacted again by Dr. Dearth to make another visit to a young boy whose Ewing’s Sarcoma had come back for a second time. The boy’s mother touched Pat and then hugged him because she was in disbelief that he was even real. The boy’s father shook Pat’s hand and told him they now knew their son had a chance. Pat continues to see kids and their parents to explain his battle with the disease. He enjoys talking to the families and feels it is his way of giving back.
Pat continued to visit Dr. Dearth for checkups until he was 50, but the doctor felt he was safe enough to stop coming. However, he also reassured him that if he ever needed anything he was more than welcome to come back. Pat is still a part of a case study at the Mayo Clinic. He attended Auburn University and is currently working at Southern Company as an engineer. He is now married with three kids, Patrick, 31, Matthew, 19, and Rebecca, 16.