This new special award, in essence, emulates the spirit and incredible human being that Natalie was.
Natalie was a PT at Legends Euless when it was transitioned by Ensign in the 2016 Legends acquisition. At the time of transition, the DOR decided to leave and remain with the outgoing company. Natalie stepped up to become the DOR. She had not been a manager before, but she worked diligently to learn what she needed to do to lead her new team with a new company and new systems. Natalie truly evolved as a leader, showing ownership for her department, love for her team and compassion for her residents. In fact, Natalie’s facility was leading in best therapy metrics ever and leading us in Keystone when she found out right before last year’s DOR conference in California that she had breast cancer. While this would have stopped many people in their tracks, Natalie persevered. She took the initiative to work from home on days when the treatment kept her down, never giving up hope and never letting her family or her team down. She completed her chemo treatments the first week of January, 2019 and we were all relieved and excited for her! Unfortunately, what we didn’t know was that the chemo had taken its toll. A rare reaction to the treatment had done serious damage to Natalie’s heart. On March 5, 2019, Natalie reported to work in spite of feeling horrible. She used a facility walker to attend the morning meeting before her team sent her home. She went to the ER where the damage to her heart was eventually discovered but irreparable. We lost Natalie in the early morning hours of March 7, 2019. While Natalie was enduring treatment, her ADOR Kim Graybeal readily stepped up and filled in the gaps. She attended meetings, triple checks, assisted with staffing/scheduling and held the team together in moments of fear, chaos, and uncertainty.
When Natalie passed, we knew there was really only one person who could help the Euless team make such a difficult transition. Kim Graybeal has eased the burden with grace and dignity. She carries Natalie’s memory in high esteem and continues to hold their team together in ways that few others could. In spite of the huge void left by our beloved Natalie, we award Kim with the first annual Natalie Blascienski Award to recognize how she has stepped up in the face of adversity, shown leadership in times of turmoil, and displayed unconditional love to her team, her facility, and to Natalie and her family—many traits that Natalie possessed. Please join me in congratulating Kim Graybeal, DOR of Legend Euless, as we honor her with this prestigious award.