Chesterfield nurse writes book after battling Covid on frontline – and gives thoughts on Partygate
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During the first and second waves of the crisis, Joan worked in an intensive care unit – and his mental health deteriorated as he witnessed death, pain and suffering every day.
After the second spike, the 46-year-old, of Clarence Road, Chesterfield, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dad-of-three Joan, who decided to leave the frontline to work as an NHS manager for Health Education England, has now penned a book about his experiences – a process which has helped him greatly.
“I decided to write the book as a way of therapy,” he told the Derbyshire Times.
“I had problems expressing my feelings and one of the things my counsellor suggested was to write.
“They advised me to start by writing just one word summing up how I felt every night before I went to bed.
“So I did – I wrote words like ‘angry’, ‘frustrated’, ‘upset’ and ‘scared’.
“The counsellor then asked me to expand on why I was feeling those things – and that’s how I got the writing bug and how the book came about.
“I found it very cathartic writing my story – it’s helped me a great deal.
“I’m now a lot more confident when it comes to expressing my feelings.”
Joan, originally from Barcelona, has lived in the UK since 2000.
As well as the pandemic, Joan’s book, called Destiny and Hope, discusses a number of other issues, including the difficulties of linguistic, cultural and professional acclimatisation – and Brexit.
All proceeds from Destiny and Hope will go to the Cavell Nurses’ Trust and the Healthcare Workers’ Foundation – two good causes very close to Joan’s heart.
He said: “I tell of my struggles but I also tell of my successes in the book.
“It made me realise how far I’d come – a boy who left Barcelona with a suitcase, full of dreams, who went on to become Nurse of the Year in 2018 and achieve many other things.
“I hope the book inspires people to work in the NHS – and I also hope it shines a spotlight on mental health and gets more people talking about how they are feeling.
“If it helps just one person, I’ll be happy.”
Joan said working through Covid was ‘one of the hardest things I’ve ever done’.
“It had a massive impact on my mental health,” he added.
“The work was bleak and the experience hit me hard both emotionally and physically.
“Every single day I saw so much death, pain and suffering.
“Every single day I went through so many feelings.
“I had many nightmares, I was exhausted – we all were.”
Talking about his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder at the end of the second wave, Joan said: “Initially I felt like a failure – I was ashamed to have had problems with my mental health.
“But thanks to the support available in my hospital, I started therapy straight away and gradually regained my balance.
“I realised that stress and anxiety are illnesses that can affect everyone.
“Since then, I have been raising awareness around mental health and trying to break the taboo surrounding opening up about mental health.
“Taking care of mental health is not a weakness – quite the opposite.
“The bravest thing a person can do is ask for help when they need it.”
Joan said he was ‘very angry’ with Prime Minister Boris Johnson after recent revelations about parties at Downing Street during lockdown.
“While we were complying with the rules and making tremendous sacrifices, he was having party after party after party,” he said.
“One minute he was outside Downing Street clapping for our carers and telling people to follow the rules – then the next he was celebrating.
“What a hypocrite – he should always be ashamed for all this.
“I think he’s told many lies – I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.”
Joan added: “If I’d thrown a party outside the hospital, I would have been sacked.
“Boris Johnson has lost all credibility – and in my opinion, the best thing he can do is resign.
“We need someone who can restore faith in our politics and politicians.
“We need good politicians, we need good leaders.
“We need someone with integrity, someone with the the right values, someone who can take this country forward.”
Mr Johnson has apologised over the parties and said he understood the public’s ‘rage’ over the scandal.
As well as writing, Joan finds solace in running.
In October, he will take part in the London Marathon in aid of Ashgate Hospice – and he hopes to beat the Guinness World Record as the fastest man to run a marathon dressed as a pint of beer.
Joan described Ashgate Hospice as a ‘wonderful’ charity and added: “I want to make sure that when our loved ones in north Derbyshire face a life-limiting illness, they’ll be able to access the specialist care and support they need.”
After a difficult couple of years, Joan is looking ahead with optimism.
And as we emerge from Covid, the inspirational nurse and writer is ready for a new chapter.
For more information about Joan’s book and to find out how to buy a copy, visit www.roaringnurse.com
To sponsor Joan for his London Marathon challenge in aid of Ashgate Hospice, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pint4ashgate