Many Different Kinds of Love – Michael Rosen

Published by: Ebury Press/Penguin
Pages: 270
Date released: 18/03/2021
Date read: 22/03/2021

“Will I wake up?”

“There’s a 50:50 chance.”

Michael Rosen wasn’t feeling well. Soon he was struggling to breathe, and then he was admitted to hospital, suffering from coronavirus as the nation teetered on the edge of a global pandemic.

What followed was months on the ward: six weeks in an induced coma, and many more weeks of rehab and recovery as the NHS saved Michael’s life, and then got him back on his feet. Throughout Michael’s stay in intensive care, a notebook lay at the end of his bed, where the nurses who cared for him wrote letters of hope and support. Embarking on the long road to recovery, Michael was soon ready to start writing about his near-death experience.

Combining stunning new prose poems by one of Britain’s best loved poets and the moving coronavirus diaries of his nurses, doctors and wife Emma-Louise Williams, this is a beautiful book about love, life and the NHS.

I didn’t know this was Michael Rosen of Going on a Bear Hunt fame when I bought this book. I didn’t know this was about Covid when I bought this book. And I didn’t know how quickly it would suck me in when I bought this book. As I’ve said before, I love reading medical books. They’re informative and entertaining, heart-warming and heart-breaking.

This book is the memoir of Michael’s own Covid journey, starting with him being admitted in March 2020 and put in an induced coma. He was in ICU for over two months before spending months in rehabilitation (spoiler alert – he doesn’t die). And even though we know he is still alive and we know he gets through it, you end up holding your breath through every page, willing him to get through another day.

It’s very strangely written I must say, but coming from a poet, I couldn’t expect anything else. Initially it’s written by his nurses, doctors, physios, family – all leaving him notes about his time in hospital. Once he awakens, he then takes over the narrative, providing us with a stream of consciousness that sometimes only warrants a dozen words on a page. It’s odd and confusing, but it works.

Michael has spent his whole life providing magical stories to the children – and adults – of the world. So why shouldn’t his own story be as magical and miraculous.

Covid is not a discriminatory virus, and for some reason, death greets some and leaves others alone. Luckily, Michael managed to avoid greeting death during his hospital stay, whilst so many didn’t. And that’s all thanks to the wonderful NHS staff that looked after him, day in, day out, night after night. Never has Michael’s poem written for the NHS’ 60th birthday been more needed:

These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.

These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.

These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.

And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last.

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