The seventh episode in the Our Voices podcast introduces us to Midhun, a nurse from Kerala, India who began a new life in Middlesbrough one year ago. Midhun’s challenge has not only involved adapting to a brand new life in the UK but also dealing with being separated from his wife and young son. The covid crisis delayed all travel and Midhun had to content himself with maintaining contact with his family via Zoom for over a year. However, they will very soon be coming to live with him and Midhun, just like his son, struggles to contain his excitement.
What has made this last year bearable for Midhun is the positive experiences he has had living in Middlesbrough. Despite describing the idea of moving to the UK as being his “dream”, he admits that he knew very little about the city before arriving. He talks about the challenges he had finding a house to rent while not knowing the first place to start. After casually asking a colleague for some advice, he found an unexpected source of help and guidance as his colleagues came together to provide all the information he needed. Midhun describes how helpful the staff were and how eager they are to help each other. This has deeply challenged Midhun’s expectations of what living with British people would be like: “I thought they were posh people and that they wouldn’t make friends with people from other nationalities but I was completely mistaken, they are simply amazing.”
It is not just the staff who have made a strong impression on Midhun, he also describes a patient which he names “Jo”, who he spent time caring for in the stroke ward. Like many patients Midhun cares for, Jo’s condition was initially critical and he was in very poor health. Although physically he made early improvements, he struggled for a long period with hallucinations which would lead him to kick out at staff members. He would sometimes become so violent that security would have to be called in order to contain his outbursts, he would then proceed to kick the security guards.
The situation was made worse for Jo as, during the pandemic, there passed a long period during which he was unable to have contact with his family. Such lack of contact contributed to his inability to remember them and added to his confusion. But once his family were able to visit again he immediately became emotional. Re-establishing contact with his wife and daughter sped up his recovery to the point where he was eventually able to leave the ward in order to be discharged home. Upon leaving, Jo apologised to each and every one of the staff members for his previous behaviour, something which leaves Midhun in great shock to this day.
Reflecting on how his experiences of living in the UK have influenced him, Midhun says that he feels being in the UK has softened him. The kindness of the people he has encountered has changed his outlook and behaviour. He sees the UK as a place of fairness and respect, and feels that he too has embraced these values.
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