Big Interview

Big Interview | Michael Rosen

Published: 4th November 2021

LAST year, children’s author Michael Rosen had to learn how to walk again, after suffering from a serious case of COVID-19. He had the help of a walking stick, which he named Sticky McStickstick. Sticky is now the star of Michael’s new book, which talks about being in hospital with coronavirus.

Big Interview |  Michael Rosen

First News reader Ciara Doyle spoke to Michael on Zoom about being in hospital, and asked a few silly questions too! Here’s what happened…

Why did you call your walking stick ‘Sticky McStickstick’?

I think I must have been thinking of Boaty McBoatface! There was a competition to name a research boat and someone came up with the name Boaty McBoatface – it must have stuck in my mind! My mind was a bit muddled at the time, as I had been in what’s called a coma; I had been knocked out for 40 days so that I could get better, and when I woke up I had to learn how to walk again. I did a tweet about the name Sticky McStickstick on Twitter and people started laughing and thought it was very funny, so that’s where it came from. It was just me being silly, I think!

What were your first thoughts when you woke up from your coma?

I had mittens on, which they had put on me to make sure that I didn’t pull any tubes out of my nose that were there to help feed me. I can remember waking up and saying to the nurse: “Why have I got mittens on? I don’t like the mittens.” She said: “Save. Your. Energy.” The way she said it reminded me of a martial arts tutor, and I kept thinking to myself: “Save. Your. Energy.” Because I was a bit woozy, I thought for a moment I might have been in some kind of martial arts training place where this lady was telling me to build up my strength so I could be better at martial arts. In fact, I couldn’t even move, let alone do any martial arts!

What was it like being in a coma?

I don’t really know! If you think about when your mum or your dad say to you: “Do you remember that time we went to such and such a place?” and you say: “No!” Well, it was like that. People remind me about it but I don’t have any memory of it. What was it like standing up for the first time again? It felt like the hardest thing I had ever had to do. I was shaking and I couldn’t really breathe; I felt I was so high up, like I was at the top of a mountain. It was really, really scary.

What did you miss the most when you were in hospital?

I missed things like going to football matches to watch Arsenal play! But mostly I missed being at home with my family. What was it like being in a wheelchair? I really enjoyed that; I thought it was an absolute whizz! I couldn’t see out of the window when I was in bed, so being in the wheelchair meant I could look out of the window for the first time in a long time. I mention in the book that I watched a lady watering her flowers and I remember thinking: “Oh yes, that’s what the world is like.” I’d kind of forgotten what the outside was like, as I sat there and watched her water her flowers. So it was really lovely to be able to use a wheelchair.

Are things better or worse in the world now since the pandemic began?

That’s very difficult to say! We’ve got the vaccine and that’s saving millions of lives, so in that way things are better than they were in March 2020, when we didn’t have the vaccine. We should carry on being careful; we need to continue with social distancing and wearing masks. It’s difficult here in the UK because people are being told to do one thing and then being told to do another, so it’s not been very well worked out, but we’ve got the vaccine and that’s a great help.

Who helped you the most when you were sick?

To start off with, my wife, then my friend who is a neighbour and a doctor. Her name is Doctor Katie and she was amazing. She came over to our house with a special instrument that measured how ill I was and made sure I went to hospital so the doctors could treat me. Then it was all the wonderful doctors and nurses who looked after me while I was in hospital. To learn how to walk, I was helped by the wonderful team at St Pancras Hospital.

Now for some silly questions! What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?

Blackcurrant sorbet! For me, it’s the best ice cream by miles and miles and miles.

What’s your favourite flavour of bubblegum?

I’m not mad keen on bubblegum but I do like chewing gum when it’s minty, so I would say my answer is minty flavour gum.

Do you like ketchup?

No! I do like spaghetti bolognese, which is another kind of tomato sauce, but I don’t like tomato ketchup. My daughter likes ketchup but my son doesn’t, so one of them likes it and one of them hates it!

What makes you happy?

Writing makes me happy. Raisins make me happy. Hummus makes me happy. When Arsenal win, that makes me happy!

This interview first appeared in First News, Issue 803, 5th Nov 2021

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again is available now

 

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