Michael Sheen says his Covid battle in the US shows value of NHS

The actor has launched a scheme to help bring more diverse voices to the media industry.

Michael Sheen
Michael Sheen

Actor Michael Sheen said his “terrifying” experience with Covid-19 while in the US proved the value of the NHS.

The 52-year-old star of Amazon’s Good Omens contracted the virus in February while in America.

Welshman Sheen struggled to breathe, had a high fever and described “shaking in pain”.

He said the experience brought home the importance of the NHS compared with the US’s privatised health system.

Sheen told the PA news agency: “I felt very keenly how vulnerable a situation you’re in, where if you need medical help, unless you can pay for it, unless you’ve got the opportunity to pay for it, you just don’t get it.

“You have to literally write the cheque or whatever, before it happens.

“I’ve always admired and respected and advocated for the NHS, but in that moment it really hit home, when you’re kind of lying in bed, shivering, having difficulty breathing and not knowing how bad this is going to get.

“You really miss knowing that there is something like the NHS there.”

Sheen said his brush with Covid was the first time he had been seriously ill in the US, a country in which he spent a lot of time while Lily, his daughter with actress Kate Beckinsale, was growing up.

Michael Sheen
Michael Sheen became seriously ill after contracting Covid-19 (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The Damned United star said he was “about as ill as I would ever want to get” and even his partner Anna Lundberg did not realise how serious the illness was.

He told PA: “I couldn’t even let my partner know that how bad it was.

“Because in trying to get out of bed, even to reach my phone, it made breathing too difficult.

“So I just had to kind of lie there for about an hour, just trying to calm down, keep my breathing shallow in order to take the pills to bring my fever down and it just took forever.

“That was terrifying. It was absolutely terrible.”

Sheen is calling on the media to increase diversity among its ranks and has announced 11 new writers supported by the A Writing Chance project, which he co-founded with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The aspiring writers and journalists are from lower income and under-represented backgrounds.

Sheen said “The talent among our 11 writers is phenomenal. Combined with the diversity of their voices and at times revelatory points of view this is a real powerhouse of a group.

“They go way beyond the hopes I had for this project and make me so excited for not only what they themselves will go on to achieve but also the countless other yet-to-be-discovered voices across all our communities.”

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