The nurses who cared for Boris Johnson while he fought for his life in intensive care said the situation was “surreal” but added: “He was a patient like any other.”
Luis Pitarma and Jenny McGee were singled out for praise by the Prime Minister after treating him at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London when he was admitted with persistent coronavirus symptoms.
He is currently recuperating at Chequers, his countryside residence, alongside Carrie Symonds, his pregnant fiancee.
Mr Pitarma and Ms McGee, from Portugal and New Zealand respectively, were lauded by Mr Johnson for standing “by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way”.
Mr Pitarma, 29, who revealed he had been inspired by Florence Nightingale, said he was “nervous” after being told he would be caring for the Prime Minister, but said his first conversation with his famous patient put him at ease.
In a statement, Mr Pitarma said: “I asked how he would like to be addressed and he said to call him Boris.
“That made me feel less nervous because he took away any formality. He just wanted to be looked after like anyone else.
“Knowing that I was watching over the Prime Minister felt quite strange because I’ve never looked after someone high profile before.
“But he was also a patient like any other patient, a life like any other life. It was a big responsibility and I gave it the same respect as I would with any other patient.”
Mr Pitarma said he chatted with the Prime Minister about his inspiration Florence Nightingale, who established the first professional nursing school in the world at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1860.
Mr Pitarma said: “I told him how I’d dreamed about working at St Thomas’ since my first day of training in Portugal in 2009, when I learned about Florence Nightingale and her connection to the hospital.
“He said it was amazing that I wanted to work here for so long and was glad I was there when he needed our care. It was a pleasure to look after him.
“I could tell that he was very thankful and happy to receive messages of support from the outside world, provided by his team. They gave him the strength to fight.”
Ms McGee said she was unfazed by the added pressure of taking care of the Prime Minister, saying the media attention on Mr Johnson’s condition was the “toughest thing” to deal with.
She told TVNZ: “He was just another patient we were trying to do our best for. It was business as usual.
“When I got in the car after work each night and I could hear things about Boris Johnson on the news that was very surreal.
“I thought: ‘Wow, I’ve just been looking after him,’ but I really wasn’t fazed by looking after Boris Johnson.
“These patients who come in to us, it’s a very scary thing for us so we don’t take it lightly.
“He absolutely needed to be there.”
Both nurses were also thanked directly by their respective president and prime minister, something they also said was “surreal”.
But both said they are determined to help in the fight against coronavirus.
Mr Pitarma said: “It’s important to me to get on with my job as normal. Other patients need the same level of care as the Prime Minister did.
“There are lives to save and a team to support.”