In the summer of 2008 I received an urgent call from my dad. He said that he had just gotten back from seeing a doctor, and he urged me to go see him, too. Before I could ask why, I got the news: “Dr. Hyatt is retiring, and is moving out of the area, so if you have time, please go see him.”
I don’t think I’ve ever made a quicker decision.
I was at the good doctor’s office within 30 minutes. As soon as I saw him I wanted to hug and squeeze him, but he was in the middle of conversation with a handful of former patients, so I patiently waited. After a few moments of farewells, I was able to reintroduce myself: “Hi Dr. Hyatt. I’m Rigo, Jr. You saved my life once.” To which he responded, “And your brother’s, too.”
For years I had heard the story of being rushed to his office because I had a terribly high fever and was experiencing convulsions. My dad said that without hesitation, Dr. Hyatt took me out of my mom’s arms, said something like, “Your kid is burning up!” And then carried me to another room and dunked me into a tub full of ice and water.
My brother’s illness was much more serious: hepatitis.
At some point during an afternoon of playing, my brother touched a dead animal. The next morning he had jaundice, and several other symptoms. After a serious scare, Dr. Hyatt was able to restore him back to health.
Incidentally, my brother’s illness was so serious that it was recorded in medical journals at the time.
Dr. Herman Hyatt served as our family pediatrician for my entire childhood. And as much as I hated going to the doctor, it was a bit of relief to see him because of his warm welcome and gentle demeanor — like a father in many ways.
Over the years I’ve met quite a few people who were also patients. And every time I talk with them, I ask if they knew that Dr. Hyatt was also a preacher and lawyer (although he never practiced law). Some know, some don’t. But all habitually share fond memories.
Earlier today I spoke with my dad and he said that “Dr. Hyatt was an unsung hero. He served thousands, including thousands without insurance. In the world of people who care for their fellow man, he was a giant.”
His call to medicine was a product of his ability to calmly help people heal. And he never turned anyone away.
What follows is what some have said after learning of Dr. Hyatt’s passing:
“He saved my son’s life when he was 13 after an accident at school.”
“Dr. Hyatt saved my youngest son. Thank God he was his doctor. I know he has a place in heaven at God’s table.”
“Dr. Hyatt saved my life when I was 12 years old. He carried me to the ER at San Jose Medical Center, and was there to wheel me to my car four days later.”
“I was just thinking of Dr. Hyatt, as I periodically do in life, not realizing he had passed. He was the best doctor in San Jose. He knew how to make a sick person feel better — not just physically but spiritually.”
Like this last person, I think about Dr. Hyatt periodically in life, too.
Today was one of those days.
Dr. Herman Wilbert Hyatt, Sr. 1926-2012by