A member of staff from Coleg Llandrillo who contracted a rare form of Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic, has developed her notes on her time in a Coronavirus ward into a book, which is now being put forward for 'Wales Book of the Year'!

Gina Maddison, who works in the college library at the Abergele campus, will have her novella based on a survivor's tale published by Parthian Press - an independent Welsh publisher based in Carmarthen - in late November. Her heartfelt love letter to NHS Wales, 'Ward Nine Coronavirus - One Woman's Story', reflects on the day-to-day happenings and what it is like to be a Covid-19 sufferer in hospital.

Gina, who is now back to full health, uses the pseudonym Alys Morgan. Alys and Morgan were the names of her Welsh ancestors, who travelled to industrial Birmingham in search of work.

The story begins with Gina being admitted to Hospital on Easter Sunday 2020 after feeling very poorly. Gina was originally diagnosed with gastroenteritis, but it was soon discovered that she had a rare form of Covid-19. Gina contracted the virus from her daughter who worked on the frontline, after nursing her through her illness. Gina was in hospital for three weeks.

She is "forever in the debt" to the surgeons, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and dieticians, who were all "truly amazing".

One therapist asked Gina what she likes to do. Gina replied: "Reading is my passion". So the therapist suggested that she jot down a few notes to read at a later date. Gina had no paper or pen, so used Google docs on her phone, which was a challenge as she had never used it before.

Gina, who has worked at the college for 11 years, said:

It was the first time that I had been in hospital for over 30 years. I was impressed and overwhelmed by what I saw during my stay in hospital. Nurses and doctors were catching the virus from the patients that they were looking after. The book is a heartfelt love letter to NHS Wales and its support services…just a big thank you!

When discharged, Gina was referred to Conwy MIND who suggested that she turn the notes into a book about her experiences. At the time Gina was reading "A Journal of the Plague Year" by Daniel Defoe (1722), and she found the parallels to the current Coronavirus pandemic both "astounding and illuminating". She showed her notes to a friend who works in a bookshop. She was immediately impressed and suggested that she published her story.

The editor / publicity manager at Parthian Press, Kathryn Tann, found out about Gina's work and got in touch. Kathryn was keen to get on board and soon began editing Gina's work, before sourcing a wide range of quotes from Wales' NHS staff. Kathryn's brother-in-law is a doctor in Merthyr Tydfil and he wrote the foreword as he was keen to promote Gina's love letter to NHS Wales.

Kathryn said:

On first reading I found the book both honest and important; an insider's experience. I also found it extremely therapeutic as I have close family members working in the NHS.

Because of the necessity to get it out and put it forward for "Wales Book of the Year", Kathryn and her publishing company put the book together in just over a month, rather than the usual timescale of 18 months!

The book will be available to purchase in all good bookshops and online at Amazon, Waterstones and Parthian online bookshop by the end of November. Part of the proceeds will go to Conwy MIND, and Gina plans to send a copy of the book to Senedd MS Eluned Morgan, who holds the brief for mental health, to stress the importance of emotional health counselling.

Grŵp Llandrillo Menai offers courses in both Counselling and Creative Writing. For more information on courses, please visit the website at www.gllm.ac.uk or contact the course advice lines on 01492 542 338 for Coleg Llandrillo, 01758 701 385 for Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, and 01248 383 333 for Coleg Menai.