West Yorkshire doctor Kate Granger’s care campaign goes global

Chris Pointon

Chris Pointon

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Her campaigning changed the face of healthcare in the UK – and now the husband of West Yorkshire doctor Kate Granger is preparing to take her message across the globe.

Chris Pointon will head up the #hellomynameis drive for compassionate care which his wife launched, despite suffering from terminal cancer.

Kate, who died last July aged just 34, is the inspiration for him to continue the campaign which meant so much to them both.

“She had the idea of doing a global tour this year. It was one of Kate’s wishes that the campaign went more widely,” Chris said.

“It is already in quite a lot of countries but to go and talk in those countries first hand brings it to life.

“It’s nice to be able to continue to make a difference through the work that we started.

“It does help, keeping me busy and carrying on keeping Kate’s memory alive.”

Since Kate’s death, Chris has carried on promoting #hellomynameis with talks to health organisations and NHS staff.

In 2017, he has been asked to speak at conferences all over the world, many of which will also incorporate presenting awards named after his wife.

His itinerary so far includes speaking at large-scale events in Florida and in Australia.

Closer to home he will present an award in memory of Kate at a ceremony run by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, where she worked as a consultant, and will attend the Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust staff awards, where she had worked and was a patient.

Chris will also be at the Yorkshire Choice awards in Leeds in April, where Kate has been nominated in two categories and another bears her name – with the event sponsored by Leeds-based supermarket chain Asda, where Chris works.

Trips to events at Jersey and the Isle of Wight are on the agenda too.

The tour comes after an emotional journey to California last year to scatter part of her ashes near San Francisco, a place they had visited together which was special to her.

He said taking off for the plane journey home was difficult, as he felt like he was leaving her behind, but as the journey continued he felt happier knowing he’d fulfilled her wishes and could go back and visit.

Kate herself was matter-of-fact about her illness and mortality and Chris has been inspired by this stoicism.

Since her death, he’s moved out of the house they shared in East Ardsley and into a flat in Mirfield, close to his family.

Christmas was spent with family members and after the main celebrations Chris opened a Christmas card Kate had written for him, one of many she had prepared since finding out she was terminally ill.

He spent an emotional New Year’s Eve – the date on which the couple met and also got engaged – with a group of friends and neighbours,

“There was a lot of chat about Kate and it was tinged with sadness because she wasn’t there,” Chris said.

“When it turned midnight was probably the hardest time, which is why it was great that I was with my good friends.”

As he prepares for a busy year ahead, he said he continues to draw strength from his wife’s outlook on life.

“Sometimes I do have tearful nights but I always try and snap out of it,” he said.

“She would be telling me to get on with things.

“Kate wouldn’t want me or her family and friends to be down and miserable. She wouldn’t want us to be sat at home, moping around.

“She would want us to be getting on with our lives – she was very matter-of-fact about that.”

* Kate Granger was 29 when she was told that not only did she have cancer, it was incurable.

By the time of her death five years later, she had raised £250,000 for a Leeds cancer centre, written two books about her experiences as a patient and started a highly successful campaign aiming to improve healthcare.

The doctor was on holiday in California in summer 2011 that she was first taken ill and back in the UK was eventually told she was suffering from a rare and aggressive form of cancer, desmoplastic small round cell tumour, known as DSRCT. Soon after diagnosis, it became clear her illness was terminal.

Kate, who lived in East Ardsley near Wakefield, had kept a diary which formed the basis of her first book, The Other Side, which told the story of her diagnosis and experience as a patient. She hoped it would help healthcare professionals to understand what being a patient was really like.

The book went on sale with proceeds going to the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal to benefit the centre at St James’s Hospital, while Kate and her husband Chris added to the fundraising themselves, completing various physical feats.

She was also a keen and accomplished baker, and more was raised through regular bake sales held at the hospital – which continue to this day.

A second book, The Bright Side, told her continuing story and contributed further to the fundraising.

Despite having to cope with constant ill-health and the effects of treatment, Kate remained dedicated to her work and aspired to become a consultant, though she thought she would not achieve that goal.

In fact she did became a consultant in elderly medicine, continuing to work for as long as her health allowed.

Her #hellomynameis campaign began as a result of a conversation she had about how few healthcare workers involved in her care introduced themselves.

The aim was that the message would be “the first rung on the ladder to providing truly person-centred, compassionate care”.

The campaign became a huge success, and has been adopted by health organisations throughout the NHS and further afield, and has been supported by celebrities and politicians and won her a raft of accolades.

As her health deteriorated last year, Kate and Chris set themselves the target of raising £250,000 for the Yorkshire Cancer Centre.

The total was reached days before she died at St Gemma’s Hospice in Moortown, Leeds.

20 October 2003...Leeds General Infirmary in Great George Street, Leeds. Story Jim  Seton.

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