Dr Feel Good? The NHS DJ helping lift Covid gloom for millions | Society
It has been another gruelling week of night shifts caring for Covid-19 patients in intensive care in Birmingham, but Dr Kishan Bodalia is gearing himself up for his next DJ set.
While nightclubs and musical festivals may be off the cards, Bodalia has found fame performing DJ sets in scrubs from his kitchen, with his NHSessions reaching millions around the globe.
“I dreamed that if it reached 100 people that would be amazing, but to then reach millions of people, I’ve just got to keep going now,” the 26-year-old said. “It really creates this sense of togetherness, it almost makes you feel as if you’re in a festival environment.”
Bodalia qualified as a doctor in August 2019 and spent the first lockdown on a respiratory ward, so his first months in the profession have been dominated by the trauma of Covid-19. He started his kitchen DJ sets in April simply as a way of cheering himself up after tough shifts.
“It was really physically and emotionally challenging, we had to learn at such a quick rate. We didn’t know anything about the virus then and it was just really scary,” he said. “I wanted to do whatever I could just to give myself a release, and so those who are closest to me would have something to look forward to. My mission at the beginning was just to make those around me feel good.”
But what started as some light Friday night entertainment for his friends has grown substantially: he now has more than 15,000 followers on Instagram and has received support from the likes of Example, Jonas Blue and BBC Radio 1’s Mistajam and Danny Howard. This month the health secretary, Matt Hancock, sent him a video message thanking him for the “brilliant initiative” and introducing his chosen track of the day, Non-Stop from the musical Hamilton.
“I’m really flattered that Matt Hancock is excited by it,” Bodalia said. “I think this year has really shown what the power of social media can be, and that it can be used to make some positive change.”
He said he was particularly proud after receiving a message from a Covid patient who said he had listened to Bodalia’s music as motivation during his physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
Bodalia has always been a keen musician, playing the saxophone, clarinet and piano throughout school, and he found a passion for dance music at university. In his third year of medical school he won a global DJ competition run by the Belgian electronic dance music festival Tomorrowland, and he has continued ever since, producing some of his own music along the way.
But during the pandemic his hobby has taken on a life of its own, becoming an essential lifeline as he fights to save Covid patients day in day out.
“Work is tough. The workload is relentless. What we’re seeing is distressing. For three nights in a row over the weekend I had to break bad news in the middle of the night to a family member,” he said. “One night I will see a patient alive and think they are doing OK, but the following night I’ll come in and they will be dying or passed away, and that’s just heartbreaking for me.
“But music has always been the thing that gets me through the darkest times. I find that my mind stays at its healthiest when I keep busy and I do the things I love. And right now the one thing I can do is music.”