Over the years compassion and kindness have been common themes on this blog and nobody encompassed them more than Kate Granger.
Kate was many things; Consultant geriatrician, campaigner, wife, aunty, MBE and patient. She was born and raised in Yorkshire and after qualifying in medicine from Edinburgh University returned there to complete her training in medicine for the elderly. She married the love of her life, Chris Pointon, in 2005 and then in 2011, at the age of 29, everything changed. After falling ill whilst on holiday in California she was diagnosed with a Sarcoma and given 12 – 18 months to live. Characteristically she decided to defy the odds and do something meaningful with the short time she had left.
I think it would be fair to say that prior to her illness Kate was a compassionate, caring and person centred clinician who inspired those around her. However her illness gave her a unique insight into how we deliver healthcare, in particular the ‘small things’ which we often forget – like introducing ourselves. It was during a hospital admission in 2013 that Kate noticed that none of the healthcare professionals dealing with her told her their names. The first person to do so, and show real care and compassion, was a porter. She reflected (and raged a little) about this and from that experience the #hellomynameis campaign was born.
#hellomynameis is a great example of a very simple idea which has the power to make a difference. It started on twitter and progressed to name badges, internet memes and finally circled the globe. During the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa those caring for the afflicted could write their name on a #hellomynameis sticker and attach it to their protective suit and thus patients would at least know the name of those tending them. Many politicians and celebrities have endorsed the project and it has been adopted in many countries around the world. I for one continue to wear my badge with pride.
We were very fortunate that Kate wrote for this blog in 2014 just prior to her visit to NHS D&G. Her blog can be read here.
Since Kate died I have read many obituaries and blogs which are far more thoughtful, and certainly more eloquent, than anything I can hope to write. I would like to quote a few of them here.
Ali Cracknell, a fellow Geriatrician and friend had this to say on the British Geriatrics Society blog:
“I always thought we would work together long term, and the thing that makes me really smile is Kate is with me more than any other person at work. Every encounter with a patient “hello my name is …”, every MDT, every meeting with a new member of the team and every morning I put on my “hello my name is” badge, she is with me, she is behind every little thing I do every day, that just makes such a difference. How could one person make a difference like that? “#hello my name is”, is so much more than those 4 words, Kate knew that and felt it, and we all do, it is the person behind the words, the hierarchy that melts away, the patient:professional barrier that is lowered, the compassion and warmth of those words.”
Just Giving, the website through which Kate raised over £250,000, described 5 Lessons they learned from Kate. You can read them in depth here but the 5 lessons are:
1) We need to communicate
2) Always rebel
3) Remember romance
4) Make goals
5) It’s ok to talk about down days
A little more about number 3, Remember romance. Just giving had this to say about that…
“Kate and her husband Chris have set the bar high when it comes to romance. Throughout Kate’s journey, she never forgot to mention how important her partner is to her and how lucky she feels to have met her soulmate. After the diagnosis, the couple recreated their wedding day and renewed their vows. They even did their first ever date in Leeds all over again.
The duo did absolutely everything together, including competing in fundraising events.
Seeing Kate and Chris wine, dine and care for one another teaches us to never take our loved ones for granted, and to remember romance. The couple remained incredibly close and strong for the duration of Kate’s illness, and managed to maintain an amazing sense of humour in the darkest of
times. It reminds us all to reflect on how we treat our partners.”
The BMJ published a particularly touching obituary which can be read here.
I will end with a quote from Macleans, a Canadian weekly magazine…
“Jeremy, Jackie, Tasha, Lucy, Pam—Kate’s doctors and nurses had names in her blogs and Twitter feeds. Outliving expectations by three and a half years, she met her fundraising goal of £250,000 for Yorkshire Cancer Charity, encouraging doctors worldwide to say hello, as she herself said goodbye.
On July 23, 2016, on her 11th wedding anniversary, three days after meeting her fundraising target, Kate was lying in her hospice room, no longer able to swallow. Christopher opened a bottle of champagne and placed drops on Kate’s lips. Caretakers called in her other family members. At 3:50pm, after Adam and Christopher’s mother had arrived at her bedside, Kate stopped breathing. She was 34.”
Ken Donaldson is Deputy Medical Director (Acute Services) at NHS Dumfries and Galloway