Heroes of the year - Danny Freeman

Reading time: 9 min

Every day over the festive period, UniteLIVE will highlight our different heroes of the year. Today, we pay tribute to Unite London and Eastern region education organiser Danny Freeman, who was hospitalised with Covid-19 back in March and April. In the feature below from April, he tells of his harrowing experience and the NHS workers who’ve saved his life.

Although Danny recovered, he still suffers from long Covid — an experience he tells of here — and has become a passionate advocate for the NHS staff who saved his life and others like him who continue to battle long Covid too.


Unite London and Eastern region education organiser, Danny Freeman, was seriously affected by Covid-19 spending nine days in hospital. He is, we are very pleased to report, currently recovering at home.

Back in March Danny endured the full range of virus symptoms for eight days. Having a continuous fever throughout this time, when the thermometer topped 40.8 centigrade it was time to call for an ambulance.

When the ambulance arrived Danny was rushed to his local hospital in south west London and after assessment, taken straight to intensive care.

Danny was in hospital from March 31 and made ‘the great escape’ as he calls it on April 8. After a few days of intensive care treatment and moved out onto the high dependency unit (HDU), Danny felt able to record his thoughts on Facebook. He has agreed to share his posts with UNITElive readers – and we’re sure you’ll find them as inspirational as he is himself. So very pleased your back with us Danny – all good wishes to you and your family, Ed.

Danny writes:

First post – Thoughts and Thanks

Firstly, can I say a big thanks to my wonderful wife Emma for all her support and help looking after me and keeping family life together during this hellish time even though she has been suffering with Covid-19 herself, my hero.

Can I also thank all the key workers who are keeping us fed, cleaned, transported and cared for. I would also like send my deepest condolences to the families of those bus workers who have tragically died over the weekend serving our communities.

As you all probably know I’m in a different ward now and I’m on the mend. I’m on oxygen, can’t really walk and am very weak. They are trying to wean me off oxygen and hopefully in a few days I will return home. In my darkest moments and there were quite a few, I drew strength and laughter from your kind messages of support and love so thank you.

My biggest thanks though goes of course to our NHS heroes from all across the world, who without their help, care, expertise and love I would probably not be here today.

As I laid in the ICU a lot of people around me were dying and the NHS heroes were there to gently hold their hands as they passed away because relatives, of course, are not able to be there. They then go home and come back to work the next day – that takes real courage!

Despite what you read there is still not enough PPE and its very poor quality what little there is. We can’t even protect those who are literally putting their lives on the line for us!

I thanked the three young nurses for going above and beyond and they said that was what they had signed up to but they were petrified they would bring it home to their loved ones. We must, must, demand protection for these heroes.

We must also hold Johnson, Cummings and his cabinet to account now and when it’s over. They knew in January this was heading our way. Rather than lockdown straight away and begin manufacturing PPE and ventilators they chose instead to completely ignore evidence and medical scientific advice from around the world and instead decided to embark on a herd immunity experiment; whereas Johnson said “thousands of our loved ones will die” in actual fact they were getting ready for us to lose 250,000 of our loved ones – our mums, dads, nans, nandads, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons. Let that figure sink in – 250,000 loved ones they were going to sacrifice.

Johnson said we were “you know, going to take it on the chin as it were”. What sort of sociopaths have been voted into government?! This a truly cruel, horrific, virus and I wish a speedy recovery to anyone who has it, but ‘take it on the chin’?!

And finally, the NHS heroes said it was so nice to be respected for the work they do and they hoped it would continue afterwards and society would change too for the better.

Many of us have known the importance of our NHS for years and campaigned to Save Our NHS as we watched hospitals close, services outsourced and privatised and 43,000 nursing vacancies remain unfilled under the Tories. We’ve watched as Johnson and the Tories voted against scrapping the 1 per cent pay-rise cap for the NHS nurses in 2017 and cheered, clapped and whooped when a pay rise for nurses was blocked.

Another world is possible – it’s up to us all to make it happen when this is all over. Please celebrate each day and enjoy the simplest things in life – the sun or rain on your face, a beautiful flower, piece of music or painting.

Above all cherish your loved ones. When you all get a chance big hugs to them all – we really are special.

Stay safe – social distance and see you all when this is over for pie ‘n’ mash, a beer and a good old fashioned knees-up!

Second post – ‘The Great Escape’

Guess what? ‘The Great Escape’ continues but unlike Steve McQueen I’ve managed to jump the wire and I’m free! The ‘Three Amigos’ below are Ricky, Phil and myself. We were all in the recovery ward together all survived Covid-19.

The solidarity and camaraderie between us was immense we helped each other with the highs and lows. We all left together.

And when I returned home the whole street have been chalking messages of support for key workers and NHS hero’s outside on the pavements and putting signs in their windows. They made this fantastic ‘Welcome Home’ sign for me. Life is good, there is such a thing as society and the NHS heroes are bloody amazing!

Third post – Buzz Lightyear

So Emma, Imogen and Oliver bought me a welcome home present – Buzz Lightyear – Ha, Bloody Ha! Spent the day relaxing in the garden in the sun, listening to birdsong, with a cool breeze on my cheeks. It’s fantastic to be at home with my wonderful Emma and family. Life is good! Don’t forget to clap and cheer our amazing key workers and NHS heroes tonight – the doctor gave me special dispensation to do so! Happy Easter everyone!

Fourth post – Rainbows across London

This idea came from Karen an artist in our street who didn’t just want us just to clap to show our appreciation of our amazing key workers and NHS heroes but wanted something more visual, creative and permanent, and which got the whole community involved. Below is the post I wrote for my local FB group which sums up my feelings on the beautiful art in my street, it truly is uplifting.

The Guardian have run it as online article today and it will be in print tomorrow. Hoping other newspapers will also be running it also, so watch this space. Let’s make sure that it’s not only ‘Rainbows across London’ but ‘Rainbows across the World!’

This is what I posted:

I know today’s judging has taken place, but from the bottom of my heart each and every one is a winner.

I’ve always been passionate about art for all, I truly believe everyone should have access regardless of cost from the youngest age to the wonders and beauty of the creative arts, be it through music, poetry, ballet, opera, architecture, photography, film, painting.

I can’t describe the feelings I felt when I came home and saw all those uplifting paintings, and houses decorated to celebrate our amazing key workers and NHS heroes from around the world. I walked up and down the street the first night my soul uplifted – thank you.

When this is all over I hope we don’t press the restart button but press the reset button. Another world is possible, it’s up to us to make sure it happens, for our amazing key workers and NHS heroes, those that tragically didn’t make it, and our loved ones. Life is good! Thank you lovely neighbours there is such a thing as society!

PS – can’t wait for when all this is over, what a street party we are going to have!

 By Danny Freeman, Unite regional education organiser

Related Articles