Jenny van den Berg

So what was her intention? “Please get this man a ribbon of honour,” is what she thought while watching TV with her two teenage sons (aged 16 and 19) and husband and seeing Gommers tell about the goings-on at his ICU. This was back in the day when people were very concerned that Dutch ICUs might not be able to handle the crisis. “He was so honest and sincere about his feelings, and he explained things so well. He blew me away. To me, he symbolises all ICU doctors and nurses.”

“I’m not an influencer at all, but I found myself thinking: I need to post this to Facebook. So I mustered up the courage, wrote down my feelings and hit ‘share’.” It turned out she had hit the right note. The message went viral on Facebook. Another woman copied her words, and her message, too, was shared countless times. In all, the messages were shared some 50,000 times. “King’s Day [when ribbons of honour are traditionally awarded – ed.] is coming up soon, so I’m not sure everything can be arranged in time, but showing our appreciation in this way is a good start. I also wrote Gommers a letter.”

If not this year, then maybe next year

Van den Berg and her husband own a business in Molenschot, a village in the southern Netherlands. “These are hard times. I’m definitely losing sleep over it. We sell touring caravans and camping gear. Obviously, that market has crashed completely. This was the first time we’ve had to keep our doors closed on Easter Monday, which is normally our best day of the year.” To make matters worse, their province, Brabant, was hit hard by the virus. “We have acquaintances who’ve had it, too.”

She is quite proud of all the people who shared her message. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels about Gommers that way, and I’m glad that many people in the country seem to share those feelings.” Her husband had visions of her making an appearance at Eva Jinek’s talk show, but neither she nor her teenage sons were up for that. “Honestly, that’s not what I did it for. I just hope that those who have a say in the matter will nominate Gommers for a ribbon of honour. If not for this year’s King’s Day ceremonies, then maybe next year’s.”