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How a suburban GP helped her entire community to share their pandemic stories


What began as a series of patients’ stories to their local GP evolved into an anthology that documented the pandemic through the eyes of airline chefs to Archbishops.

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When Dr Johanna Skinner turned up to work at her Camp Hill practice in March, she did not expect to become a confessional for her patients’ pandemic experiences.

“As a GP, people began to come in and tell me their story before their illness,” Skinner said.

Stunned by the outpouring, Skinner decided to anthologise these stories of love and loss, calling on the help of writer and editor Jane Connolly to collate them onto a digital publication.

They reached out into the community for personal experiences of the pandemic and were overwhelmed by the response.

“We received over 160 submissions: birth stories, death stories, and everything in between,” Connolly said.

“It was organised chronologically based on how COVID has affected a diverse range of people through every stage of life”.

Skinner and Connolly curated a social history of the pandemic, amplifying the voices of ordinary people experiencing an extraordinary event.

“The government initiatives, timelines, and statistics will be recorded in history but who records the story of the 96-year-old woman spending her birthday alone?” Connolly said.

Skinner emphasised the importance of recording stories to remember history.

“All societies tell great stories but without documenting them we forget how we felt and the detail of the day-to-day during difficult times.

“It was a cathartic experience to be able to write these things down. But also to create this work for posterity. Now our contributors’ children and grandchildren will have it forever,” Skinner said.

The publication, Stories from the Heart, comprises a series of essays, recollections, and poetry that captured the uncertainty, anxiety, resilience, courage, and humour felt in response to an unprecedented event.

InQueensland will publish a selection of these compelling stories – one each day this month – with Skinner and Connolly’s permission. The series starts today, with the inspiring tale of mother, blogger and transplant patient Emmy O’Neill, whose courage and positivity will inspire you. Her article is published below.

More TALES OF 2020 stories

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