Hello my name is Ali Cracknell. I have never written a blog before, but if there is one person who would say to me, “just to do it Ali, try new things”, it would be my friend and colleague Kate.
Kate Granger sadly died on Saturday 23rd July 2016 from a rare sarcoma.
I first met Kate, when she was an FY2 and I was a fresh faced elderly care registrar at Leeds General Infirmary. I remember in those days her values were strong, she provided first class care at every encounter, communication was a real strength and she loved to teach all members of the team. We shared a passion for patient safety and improvement. This was the old style “firm”, where I’m sure she started to steer her career towards geriatrics. We were guided by our wise and experienced consultant Peter Belfield, who became a friend to us both too. Kate and I learnt a lot together during that “firm”, gaining confidence in testing out new improvement methods and ideas, and a friendship based around our professional values developed. We had challenging times, but it was always fun driven by teamwork and continuous learning together. A lasting friendship developed then and our professional paths crossed frequently over the next 9-10 years. Core Medical Training in Leeds followed for Kate- always the perfect CMT to be on call with or based on your ward. There followed times when we were both registrars together, followed by my having Kate as my registrar when I was a new consultant- perfect! And again in the latter years of her training. And lastly Kate as a consultant colleague in Yorkshire.
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. As Kate said it is the “little things” that make a difference, she “felt” the impact of those words on a specially tough day in the early months of her illness. Brian the porter at Leeds was the first person to use them that day, and Kate changed the NHS and beyond as a result. Can one person, really make a difference? Well, yes they can, but it takes a very special person, an inspiration like Kate was, articulating the importance, leading by example, and sharing the belief. Kate will be the first to admit she has had a team behind her, just as in the world of Geriatrics it is the team that makes the difference. Chris, Kate’s husband, gave her the belief and support to take it further, be bold, believe in yourself and why you are doing it, turn your frustrations into something positive. Adam her brother, shared her values and brought technical skills to the campaign, together they have changed the NHS, they have sown seeds of “hello my name is” champions everywhere, it will continue to flourish and spread, like no other change I have ever seen. She told me in her final weeks, “hello my name is doesn’t need me now”. It has a life of its own, it continues to spread and is sustained where it is. I have never seen any change or improvement do that at such scale and power, I am not sure I will ever see that again in my career, that is an immense legacy.
I have to admit I feel absolutely lost on the odd occasion I left my badge at home. It is now on my automated checklist before I leave the house: keys, phone and BADGE! In fact the order is actually BADGE, keys, phone. How does a badge do that!? It’s because it’s so much more than a badge.
I’m still smiling because “hello my name is” is only a part of Kate’s legacy. I have not mentioned her books, the “other side” and the “bright side”, that can change behaviours of professionals instantaneously. And her charity work for Yorkshire Cancer Centre, raising over £250,000! Her willingness to embrace life, to accept death, to live for the moment, to not waste time deliberating- if you believe in it- do it. Awards galore followed, including an MBE…. but she would say “I’m just Kate, the Yorkshire lass that happens to have cancer”. Did I mention? she was also an amazing cook, an amazing wife, Aunty, daughter, friend, colleague, she was a great teacher too, and a musician (flute).
On the evening Kate died I was due to go out with several friends for a birthday celebration. Kate would definitely have said “let your hair down Ali, have a glass of prosecco and a boogie”. She loved a dance, I don’t! She would be chuckling at my dancing that night, but her message is always embrace life, so I embraced the dance floor for once in my life that night.
I’ve learnt so much from Kate. She’s shaped me as a Geriatrician, she’s enhanced how I communicate with everyone every day, she’s motivated me to take up running for charity (I couldn’t run 5k 10 years ago, and now I am attempting a marathon this year!), she’s made me agree to be filmed, she’s got me tweeting, and most importantly she’s inspired me to embrace life, do new things, share your values and believe. One thing for sure, is she would want us all to be positive, to carry on with her legacy and what she believes in.
I am sure I write for all Geriatricians in Yorkshire and beyond, all healthcare workers who had the pleasure to work with her, Kate- you have made a difference to us all, we all now do those “little things” better. Geriatrics is a better place thanks to you, our NHS is better for you, we have lost a true legend of Geriatrics and a very special person, friend and colleague.
Thank you Kate Granger, rest in peace, you will never be forgotten, your work continues to grow and spread, your values and presence are with us.