Author’s tale of pandemic journey – and what he owes to nurses

Children’s author Michael Rosen reflects in our podcast on his time in intensive care and his admiration for the skill, care and compassion of nurses


Michael Rosen at the Nursing Live event
Michael Rosen at the Nursing Live event Picture: John Houlihan

When author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen contracted COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic he was put into an induced coma and told he had just a 50% chance of waking up.

For 40 days the author of children’s picture book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt lay ventilated and unconscious at Whittington Hospital in London.

Meanwhile nurses in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) kept detailed daily diaries of his progress, often sharing personal details of their own pandemic journeys and encouraging him on to ‘keep fighting’ as he battled for his life.

Following his long recovery, Mr Rosen collected the diary entries to pen a poem and then later a heart-warming, amusing and sometimes upsetting book about his experience, which gives a glimpse into the NHS on the front line during that turbulent time.

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Michael Rosen read extracts from his book at Nursing Live event

On 10 November Mr Rosen attended RCNi’s inaugural Nursing Live event celebrating nursing to read extracts from the book Many Different Kinds of Love: A story of life, death and the NHS to hundreds of nursing staff at the event venue ACC Liverpool.

Ahead of his talk, Mr Rosen joined senior reporter Alison Stacey for this episode of the Nursing Standard podcast, in which he tells the story of his near-death experience with COVID-19, along with his unwavering support for nurses during the historical strikes announced one year ago.

Asked why he supported the nurses’ strikes he said: ‘It doesn’t even pass my mind that it’s a choice.

‘Immediately through my mind I have flashes of the nurses who looked after me when I was knocked down (by a car) when I was 17, when I was in a metabolic unit when I was identified as having an underactive thyroid for 12 years, and I virtually died then.’

Michael Rosen at the Nursing Live event

The skill, care and compassion of nurse must be rewarded, says Michael Rosen

‘These images come up from in mind when I think of… the nurse that looked after my mum in her last days. It’s incredible – the skill, the care the compassion. And then you’re out the door and someone else is coming in.

‘It has to be rewarded. We have to get recruitment and retention and be in a place where people are not only proud of the work but can also lead decent lives themselves.’

Mr Rosen went on to say that it is a ‘wrongly balanced society’ that has nurses working up to 60 hours a week, adding: ‘That strike was about trying to redress that balance a little bit.’

The pair also discuss the importance of creativity and leisure time in coping with stress, the frustrations of learning to walk again, and the nuances of memory, when Mr Rosen makes a sterling attempt to name all the Spice Girls.

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