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Michael Rosen on survivor’s guilt after Covid: Why am I still here?

Michael Rosen has said he often thinks about how he survived his Covid-19 coma while speaking to families who lost loved ones during the pandemic.

The children’s author, 77, contracted the virus at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020 and subsequently lost his sight in one eye and hearing in one ear as a result of microbleeds.

Rosen spoke to Good Morning Britain’s Kate Garraway – who lost her husband in January after he suffered long-lasting symptoms from coronavirus – about his conversations with those hit by Covid-19.

When asked if he felt survivor’s guilt, he said: “Well, I’m saying it to you Kate, I hear about people who died, I meet people, I get into a cab and you know, the cabbie tells me that his relations have died.

“And then I sort of think, ‘well, why am I here?’. I don’t even know because if you’re going into intensive care, it’s not as if you’re consciously doing things to make yourself better to you basically… You can’t give people antibiotics, because it’s a virus.

“So (people are) saying ‘get on with it’. I mean, that’s what it is with Covid and so I sort of think I’m kind of alienated from the fact that I actually got myself better inside without knowing why. I do feel quite strange about it.”

Presenter Garraway’s husband Derek Draper fell seriously ill during the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, and died last month aged 56.

Rosen also said he “didn’t realise at the time, the incredible risks” that health workers were taking to treat him for the 40 days he was in a medically-induced coma.

“They were looking after me, they were mopping me down, they were doing all that stuff (when) you’re just lying there,” Rosen added. “Every time that was a risk.

“They were exposing themselves to what’s called the viral load, and inadequate PPE at the beginning, just a little paper mask instead of the proper ones.

“That some of them got ill and some of them are traumatised. I mean, I’ve met one nurse who hasn’t gone back (to work).”

Last year, he marched with striking nurses from University College Hospital in north-west London to Downing Street.

British Academy Film Awards 2024 gala – London
Joanne Froggatt stars in ITV’s Covid-19 drama Breathtaking (Ian West/PA)

Rosen recently watched a special screening of the new ITV drama Breathtaking, which explores how NHS staff coped during the pandemic and stars Downton Abbey actress Joanne Froggatt.

He said: “I was … seeing it in the preview cinema and luckily, I had my daughter with me so she could look after me.

“But I just suddenly … sort of got the shakes and I didn’t even know why, because it wasn’t actually immediately (about) one of the scenes, so I think, these things can have quite a triggering effect if you were (affected by them).”

Rosen served as Children’s Laureate from 2007 to 2009 and won the PEN Pinter Prize in 2023 for his work of “outstanding literary merit”.

He has more than 100 books to his name including We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, Fantastic Mr Dahl, Sad Book and On The Move: Poems About Migration.

Rosen has also written the book Many Different Kinds Of Love, detailing his experience with the virus.