Hospital worker's Covid experiences written into song

Michael Dixie

Queen's Hospital worker Michael Dixie, whose experiences during the Covid pandemic have been used for a song. - Credit: Michael Dixie

A Queen's Hospital worker has had his experiences of working through the Covid pandemic put into a song.

Michael Dixie, chief pharmacy technician, took part in a project with the Americana Music Association (AMA) and worked with songwriter Sam Coe on a tune that has now been uploaded to YouTube.

The song, called The Weight of the World, is the result of online conversations between the pair and Michael told the Recorder that he wants people to become reflective when they hear it.

"I want them to get that feeling of hope with the vaccines and just sit back and think that we are all very fortunate to be here in light of the sad numbers of people who have lost their lives due to this awful virus."

The song begins with the line 'I don't know what I'm walking in to', a reference to Michael's feelings at the start of the pandemic when he was on holiday in Gran Canaria the week before England entered lockdown.

He said: "Seeing all of the news back in the UK with the hoarding in the supermarket and the increase in patients coming into hospital, my thoughts were 'what am I going to walk into when I get back to work?'"

Having worked at the Romford hospital for 20 years, Michael runs a team of pharmacy technicians who visit newly-admitted patients to check what medicine they have been taking before coming to hospital to ensure they get the right medicines.

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The Hornchurch resident said one of the issues during the pandemic's first wave was around the possible risk of the virus coming into hospital on patients' medicine boxes.

"We didn't know in the first wave whether these medicine boxes were contaminated with the virus. We have to be sure that we are wearing the correct PPE and be washing our hands constantly."

Another line in the song, 'nobody knows what is real anymore', references misinformation and fear about the virus and Michael added: "Social media and some of the messaging that has gone out over the last year has had a huge effect on people and it does make people question whether they are doing the right thing or not."

The scale of the personal challenges faced by staff is something that has particularly struck him during the pandemic.

 "Everyone has handled things in many different ways," he said. "We all come into work everyday and have that worry that we are going to take the virus home with us to our loved ones.

"One of the hardest things for a lot of us is having to reduce our personal contact with our family and close friends."

Despite what he has faced, Michael felt comfortable looking back on his experiences for the song.

"I'm quite a positive thinking person and very much get stuck into challenges.

"I've been at the trust for 20 years and honestly have never seen a health crisis like this and the changes it brought.

"My main focus was checking in on my team and our staff and trying to give little boosters throughout to keep everyone going."

Sam performs the song's vocals and said talking to Michael was "like gold dust" for her as a songwriter.

She said: "Michael told me the phrase 'go forth, save lives' which he and his team regularly use after group meetings. This was key for me to start writing the song around. It actually became the final line, but shaped everything that came before it. 

"I was incredibly pleased with the final song and I’m just so happy Michael is pleased with it too.

"It felt like quite a responsibility to tell someone's story this way and I wanted it to do his job and story justice."

The project, the third in a series of songwriting workshops organised by the AMA, was done with NHS workers across London, and the association's chief executive Stevie Smith said it was "fitting" to give them a voice.

She added: "The premise behind the workshops is to give a voice to people who may not naturally think to turn to songwriting as an outlet for their emotions and feelings. It's been really cathartic for everyone involved."

Sam said she hopes to record a version with Michael's vocals added for her next album.

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