Two nurses thanked by Boris Johnson for helping to save his life during his spell in intensive care for Covid-19 have been praised in their home countries, receiving messages of congratulations from their leaders and being hailed by their family members.
In a video message on Sunday, the British Prime Minister named several medical workers who tended to him while he was in a London hospital last week.
But he singled out two nurses – Jenny McGee from New Zealand and Luís Pitarma from Portugal – who stood by his bedside “for 48 hours when things could have gone either way.”
McGee’s brother Rob told the New Zealand Herald that she was “blown away” by Johnson’s message – but added that “she just saw it as another day and kept just saying she is just doing her job.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added that she has sent McGee a message on Facebook to thank her for her work, but hasn’t had a response yet.
“Nor would I expect to hear back from her necessarily at all. She’s obviously on the front line and I imagine will be very focused on her job,” Ardern told reporters on Monday.
And McGee’s high school, Verdon College in Invercargill, offered its “sincerest admiration” for its former pupil.
In Portugal, meanwhile, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said he has “already personally thanked the nurse Luís Pitarma, while also thanking the commitment of all Portuguese health professionals who, in Portugal and around the world, are providing crucial help in the fight against the pandemic.”
‘A surreal time’
Johnson was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in Central London on April 5 and went into intensive care the following day, having previously tested positive for Covid-19.
“The NHS has saved my life, no question,” he said on Sunday after being discharged. “It’s hard to find the words to express my debt.”
He used the message to highlight a number of doctors and nurses, paying particular tribute to McGee and Pitarma.
“The reason, in the end, my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night, they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring, and making the interventions I needed,” Johnson said.
McGee’s parents, Caroline and Mike, told TV New Zealand that their daughter Jenny has had a “surreal” time.
“It makes us feel exceptionally proud obviously,” Caroline McGee said. “But she has told us these things over the years and it doesn’t matter what patient she’s looking after, this is what she does.”
“And I just find it incredible that she – that any person – can do this for 12 hours, sit and watch a patient.”
Ardern, meanwhile, noted that “nurse Jenny” is just one of the “many, many Kiwis” who work in healthcare around the world.
“They show the same commitment, same care, same work ethic that they do here, and we are all very proud of them – especially you, nurse Jenny,” Ardern said.
Johnson recovering at country residence
Workers in Britain’s National Health Service are battling the country’s brutal coronavirus outbreak, which has so far claimed at least 10,612 lives.
At least 19 NHS workers have died so far, and Johnson’s government has been criticized by many in the profession for failing to provide its workforce with enough testing or personal protective equipment.
Johnson tested negative for Covid-19 before leaving hospital, a government spokesperson said on Monday.
The Prime Minister is now recovering at his official countryside residence, Chequers, in Buckinghamshire. This is considered “a suitable place for the PM to continue his recovery,” his spokesman said. He noted that there are no scheduled visitors.
No update on Johnson’s health has so far been issued Monday, but his spokesman said he is not immediately returning to work, on the advice of his medical team.
Johnson spoke to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is still deputizing for the Prime Minister, over the weekend but is focusing on recovery and has not received a “red box” – cases containing briefing papers given to ministers – since his condition worsened on April 6, his spokesperson said.
CNN’s Simon Cullen and Luke McGee contributed reporting.