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Author Michael Rosen calls for better pay for nurses after speaking at Covid service

Author Michael Rosen said he “can’t bear” to see nurses being underpaid and “100%” supports their right to strike after reading a poem at Westminster Abbey dedicated to the NHS workers who support him had saved the life.

The former Children’s Prize winner read an excerpt from his 2021 book Many Different Kinds Of Love at a coronavirus memorial service in central London on Tuesday attended by hundreds of bereaved families and key workers.

Rosen, 76, contracted coronavirus in March 2020 and spent 40 days in a medically induced coma after suffering a microbleed in his brain that left him deaf in his left ear, blind in his left eye and without feeling in his toes would have.

After the Westminster ceremony, Rosen said he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in June this year and supports the right to strike for NHS workers.

He told the PA news agency: “I support them 100%.

“Their pay is simple – I can’t bear to think about it, the kind of hardships they have to go through to train and then the kind of schedules and the work they put in – they need to be much, much better rewarded will.

“It’s amazing that they can take this and endure it for so long.”

Rosen said he met with some of the nurses and doctors who saved his life and the encounters brought him close to tears.

“It’s a difficult moment because these people have done so much,” he said.

“Gratitude doesn’t really express it, it’s just more than gratitude, you feel like you owe your whole existence to these people.

“It’s just a job, the way they think about it is we go to work and do that, and yet they’ve done so many things beyond that.”

Rosen added that nurses described acts of kindness in his patient diary, including holding his hand and singing Happy Birthday to his bedside on his 74th on May 7, 2020 while he was “dead to the world.”

“It doesn’t matter at all,” he said. “When I meet her I’m torn, I can’t take it in a way, I just want to cry.”

Rosen said his coronavirus recovery, which involved learning to walk again, gave his writing “a little kick in the pants,” and he even wrote a few stories in his head, including Rigatoni The Pasta Cat, while he couldn’t move.

He said the service at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the more than 200,000 people who have died from coronavirus was “wonderful” and gave a sense of “the vastness of it”.

“I got a sense of the immensity and the pain,” he said.

During the hour-long ceremony of prayers, hymns and readings, representatives of various faiths also blessed seedlings in the monastery hall, which will later form a living memorial to those who have died during the pandemic.

The trees will grow in the National Memorial Arboretum in the National Forest at Alrewas near Lichfield, Staffordshire.

The Dean of Westminster, Reverend Dr. David Hoyle paid tribute to those still suffering from long-term Covid symptoms and thanked key staff for their “courage, skill and selflessness”.

Hundreds of gold and silver leaves inscribed “Hope” also adorned the floor of the hall, which mourners circled to read before taking their seats.

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