I’ve never met you but my heart is broken. I was a resident when I first discovered #hellomynameis and I remember reading your story and thinking how amazing you were, how suffering the blow of such a terrible diagnosis and at the same time, using your experience made something positive out of it. I loved how much you loved medicine. Your knowledge, the passion you had equally for the science and humanity of it; I remember thinking at the time, will I ever love this job that much? I was burnt out and overworked by a giant, thousand bed hospital that had gobbled me up and chewed me into millions of tiny pieces. I loved how you loved life, music, food, how you enjoyed all of it, in spite of it. I followed you through time, all these years, to today.
When I became a registrar I had no idea what I wanted to do. I figured a year of it wouldn’t hurt for experience sake and back then, I was so lost and confused by the brutality of the job. And my first year of registrarship was a further baptism of fire that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Multiple personal tragedies, workplace bullying, and discovering what ‘clinical governance’ really means, more being gobbled up by the system, and int that year, being so lost I couldn’t speak anymore. I kept following you, reading your tweets, feeling the dread that came with each infection, cheering for you when you got home. Your love of life, of your marriage, your work, helped anchor me, helped me remember what was important in life.
Right at the end of that hard time, I did my first geriatric medicine term and like you, fell in love. Suddenly I understood it. It was all the best bits of medicine (for me), wound up messily with the culmination of human experience. It was medicine, it was families, it was psychology, logistics, pain and suffering, healing, quality over quantity. And finally, with a new purpose, that horrible year faded into memory, I got my exams and sailed happily into that world where I am now without one single regret. And throughout that whole, torrid, journey, you were there on your own incandescent, heartbreaking, amazing, world-changing path.
I’m so sorry. I’m sorry about Christmas. I’m sorry Chris and God, so sorry about Charlie. I’m sorry about the baking and the music and the little ones. I’m so so goddamned sorry that your patients don’t get you as their doctor because you are who they need. I’m sorry that thousands of people are championing your cause because I damned well know that if the cancer never happened there wouldn’t need to be the cause. I want to wind back time for you, make the diagnosis never happen because you deserved your family and your career and all the cakes and Pimm’s and other nice, bright things in life. And you took all of that sorrow and turned it into magnificence, the highest form of functioning.
At the beginning of the year at my hospital in Sydney, the nurses had set up a table at the entrance and took photos of us in a picture frame adorned with the words ‘Hello My Name Is’. We had name badges and wristbands and I wore them until they fell apart. I’d been introducing myself properly ever since learning of you, not always perfect with it, but so much better than the at-times patriarchal way I’d been trained. And these days it’s ingrained and it’s perfect because Kate, for you, I’ve practiced and practiced and practiced. And early on I’ve been that scared resident that couldn’t look their cancer patient in the eye and since you, not any more, and since having my own interns and residents, I’ve trained them too and I know they’ll train all the others.
I love my job now Kate. I appreciate the little things so much more. I’ve learned so much from you and Chris, more than just introducing myself properly (and how sad we needed a campaign to teach us this), and forever more, for you, I will introduce myself, I will love my job, I will always try to look on the bright side of life and work with the hand I’ve been dealt.
The last thing I wanted to say, because I’m not sure you ever did, not publicly anyway because you’re a lady, was this.
All of my love,
Dr Kate Granger MBE and consultant geriatrician, passed away last night at the age of 34 from a rare type of cancer. She was given less than two years to live at diagnosis, and in the five years that followed, sparked a worldwide campaign to have healthcare workers introduce themselves to patients, and treat them with the respect and kindness that they all deserve. The #hellomynameis campaign has been adopted by hospitals and health facilities all over the world, and Kate and her wonderful husband Chris have raised over 250,000 pounds for the Yorkshire Cancer centre in Leeds. Kate wrote two books in this time because she was clearly a spectacular overachiever, you can find them here. She will be sorely missed by healthcare workers all over the world.