Heart-Wrenching ITV Drama, ‘Breathtaking’ Chronicles Real-Life Pandemic Struggles

Heart-Wrenching ITV Drama, ‘Breathtaking’ Chronicles Real-Life Pandemic Struggles

The three-part ITV drama, Breathtaking, has captivated audiences with its portrayal of the harsh realities faced by frontline NHS doctors during the height of the pandemic.

While the characters are fictional, the tear-jerking plot is grounded in the pandemic experiences of Dr. Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor who found herself on virus-riddled wards in March 2020.

Despite the dramatization and inclusion of scenes not directly impacting her, Dr. Clarke emphasizes the importance that everything depicted on screen is rooted in real events experienced by patients and NHS staff.

Challenging Government Narratives:

Critics have accused Breathtaking of prioritizing politics over storytelling.

However, Dr. Clarke contends that her intention was to challenge the government’s narrative of the NHS ‘coping’ during the pandemic, which she perceives as ‘downright lies.’

The series, co-written by Jed Mercurio and Prasanna Puwanarajah, both former doctors, unfolds gripping scenes such as patients left to die in ambulances due to CPR restrictions over infection fears.

The Journey of Dr. Rachel Clarke:

Born in 1972, Dr. Clarke’s journey into medicine took a unique path.

A former broadcast journalist who covered global affairs, she transitioned to medicine in 1997.

Despite starting medical school at 29, Dr. Clarke’s passion for the field became evident.

She went on to specialize in palliative care, motivated by a disdainful comment about sending patients to the ‘palliative dustbin’ during her training.

As a palliative medic, she brought compassionate care to terminal patients.

Advocacy and Challenges:

Dr. Clarke became a prominent voice among junior doctors, actively opposing then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s contract that extended working hours.

Ongoing NHS strikes have unfolded, with junior doctors participating in protests.

Dr. Clarke, known for her candid criticisms on Twitter, faces backlash but remains steadfast in her advocacy for junior doctors’ rights and fair compensation.

Authorship and Human Connection:

Dr. Clarke is a bestselling author, with books such as ‘Your Life in My Hands’ and ‘Dear Life.’

The latter reflects on her experience caring for her father during his battle with bowel cancer.

Breathtaking, based on her pandemic diaries, confronts government misinformation.

Dr. Clarke aims to give a voice to NHS staff and hopes the series allows them to feel acknowledged.

Hospice Ukraine and Future Endeavors:

Beyond her medical and authorial roles, Dr. Clarke founded Hospice Ukraine, a charity supporting end-of-life care in the war-torn country.

Her next book, ‘The Story of a Heart,’ delves into the transplant experience and is set for release in September.

Behind the Scenes Reflections:

Dr. Andrew Cinnamond, a medical advisor for Breathtaking, shared that teaching actors to wear PPE stirred unpleasant memories of the pandemic.

Dr. Thom Petty, the show’s chief medical adviser, also an NHS anaesthetist, reflected on the uncertainties in the early days of the pandemic and the challenges faced by frontline healthcare workers.

Impact of Breathtaking:

Dr. Clarke hopes Breathtaking provides a platform for NHS staff to see their experiences acknowledged and shared.

The drama, echoing real-life events, aims to bridge the gap between the government’s public narrative and the unfiltered reality within the NHS during the pandemic.

Legacy and Advocacy Continue:

Dr. Rachel Clarke’s multifaceted journey— from broadcast journalism to medicine, from vocal advocacy to bestselling authorship—underscores her commitment to healthcare, compassion, and challenging systemic issues.

Her work transcends the screen and pages, leaving an indelible mark on the discourse surrounding healthcare in the UK.