Michael Rosen writes poem in tribute to NHS nurses after Covid recovery | NHS

Michael Rosen does not remember much of his 48 days in the intensive care unit when he was affected by Covid-19 two years ago. But thanks to a patient diary diligently kept by the nurses, the poet and former children’s prize winner knows how faithfully and compassionately he was cared for.

“They were fantastic. In the diary, they tell me how they held my hand, talked to me, sang to me, kept me awake when they were worried my blood pressure was dropping dangerously low, shaved me, turned me over, he said.

The 76-year-old was told he had a 50/50 chance of survival before being put in an induced coma for more than a month. Since his near-death experience, he has said he feels compelled to speak out about his gratitude to those who saved his life.

Now, in tribute to NHS nurses and other health workers, Rosen has written a new poem called This Is You, You’re Looking at You. With reports that 40,000 nurses have left the NHS in the past year due to stress, he has also helped launch a new app, ShinyMind, which aims to support nurses’ mental health and general wellbeing.

“When I was in hospital I could see the strain the nurses were under, but it was only when I came out that I understood this,” he told the Guardian. “In my intensive care unit, where the death rate was 42%, nurses who normally work one nurse per patient were working three or four patients. They repeatedly had to dress up in full PPE gear, nurses got sick, some of them died.”

All of this, Rosen said, was enormously stressful. “In fact, when I met some of the nurses afterwards, one or two said they had found it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to continue. I think about myself at their age and if I would have been able to take that kind of mental and physical strain, day after day, out. No, I wouldn’t.”

The poem suggests that nurses “take a moment” for themselves. “Are there questions they can ask themselves or even make suggestions on how to treat themselves nicely? Nobody can sacrifice all the time. You end up trying to run on empty. So I wanted to help. A way to give something back to them.”

It was important that nurses “check their state of mind, check their health, use their breaks and free time to leave the workplace,” said Rosen.

It comes amid warnings that the NHS is on its knees after years of underfunding due to austerity. Hospitals and clinics are understaffed, waiting lists are record high and ambulance crews were unable to answer almost one in four 999 calls last month.

Nurses across the UK will go on strike for the first time over two days in the Christmas fortnight after ministers rejected their demands for formal talks on NHS pay.

Calling the NHS a “brilliant and wonderful invention”, Rosen added that a national health service was how a people or a nation looked after and looked after itself.

“The NHS involves working with thousands of people every second, every minute, every hour of every day,” he said. “Every day there are millions of interventions that help people. This is a collective effort of mind and body that is a testament to what people can do for each other.

“We should have valued this institution, supported it, improved it, ensured that it is there solely to help people.”

He said he supported the nurses’ intention to strike because he “trusts” their decision. “The fact that nurses have never taken this level of action before tells us how provoked they must be. I don’t see it as my job to judge what they are worth. A group of dedicated workers under immense stress has taken a democratic decision, he said.

Rosen came out of the coma after 40 days and spent three weeks in rehabilitation. The author of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt published a book last year, Many Kinds of Love, in which he wrote about his stay in hospital and journey home.

A children’s book, Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again, also described his transformation from a man who couldn’t stand up on his own to a grandfather who proudly walks home, into the open arms of his beloved family.

He has said that he found his rehab experience “completely infantilizing” – so it made sense to write a children’s book about it. On one occasion he was told to throw a balloon; on another, he learned to stand up from a bench and was told to put his hands behind him and his nose over his toes.

“The nurses were there to help the physios and occupational therapists teach me how to get up, walk with a frame or a cane, and then walk unaided,” he said. “They were incredibly good-natured about it, kind and helpful.”

This Is You, That’s you Look at You by Michael Rosen

This is you.
You look at you.

Take a closer look.
Tighter.

Listen to your breath.
Is it quiet?
Or is it a bit of a gasp
or a pacifier in there?

What about the trip?
Look at the walk.
Are you in control?
The feet roll from heel to toe
do they?

What now?
What about the eyes?
Look carefully at the eyes.
Eyes tell you a lot.
The skin around the eyes.
Is it tight?
More on one side than the other?
And is there a wrinkle?
Is it always there
or can it even out?

This is you.
You look at you.

Now what comes after is more difficult.
See if you can notice any part of you
it’s tight, tight,
a part you that you hold
tighter and tighter
than it should be
and you don’t know why:
a shoulder perhaps
one side of your neck?
Is there any way that could be looser?

This is you
You look at you.

Now this is difficult.
We go in.
What about sleep?
Honestly.
Do you sleep through the night?
Or do you lie awake in the middle of the night
and you don’t know why?
What do you think about?
Make the day before
come in and sit there and stay awake?
Do tomorrow
come in and sit there and stay awake?
Have you ever talked to someone
about what keeps you awake?
You could, you know.
Sometimes, talking about it
scaring away the things that keep you awake.

This is you
You look at you.

Are there things you can do
who would look after you?
Places you can go
People you could see
Programs you can watch
Things you can do.
What are they?
Close your eyes.
Imagine yourself doing them.
Imagine yourself doing them.
Imagine yourself doing them.

Have you ever tried ways
to express what you feel?
Drawing?
Write?
Motion?
What would you draw?
What would you write?
How would you move?
Imagine yourself doing them.
Imagine yourself doing them.
Imagine yourself doing them.

And you know why I’m asking you
to ask yourself all these questions
not you?
It’s for the old, old reason:
if you don’t take care
you cannot look after others.

This is you.
You look at you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *