St Thomas’ nurse praised by Boris Johnson: ‘I couldn’t really believe what was happening’

Josh Salisbury (23 April, 2020)

Luis and Jenny were praised by the prime minister for saving his life at St Thomas'

34403Exterior of St Thomas' Hospital

A St Thomas’ nurse who spent three days beside Boris Johnson’s bed as he battled coronavirus in intensive care has spoken of his pride after being personally praised by the PM.

Luis Pitarma was personally name-checked by Mr Johnson in a video following his release from hospital, alongside his fellow nurse, Jenny McGee.

Speaking for the first time since the Prime Minister was released from the SE1 hospital to recover, Mr Pitarma spoke of his nerves at treating such a high-profile patient.

“I felt nervous at first – he was the Prime Minister. The responsibility I was going to hold in my hands was quite overwhelming,” said the critical care nurse.

“I didn’t really know how to address him – should I call him Boris, Mr Johnson or Prime Minister?

“My matron reassured me and said to be myself like I am with any other patient.”

Mr Johnson also insisted on being called Boris, he said. “I was by his side for the three nights he was in ICU,” said Luis.

“We had some conversations, including about where I was from.

“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.”

Boris Johnson speaking at a news conference last month

St Thomas’ hospital hit headlines across the world when it was revealed to be treating Mr Johnson, the first world leader to have been hospitalised as a result of Covid-19.

The second nurse praised by Mr Johnson has also spoken about her experiences caring for him during a media storm.

“There was a lot of media interest about him being in hospital and to be honest that was the toughest of the lot, as a unit he was just another patient,” Jenny has told TVNZ, a network in her native New Zealand.

Since then messages have come flooding in from around the globe.

“The messages are adorable, there are kids telling me they want to be a nurse, families saying how proud they are and it means so much right now, people will never know how much it means, but thank you.”

Luis says he does not have the words to describe how he felt when he watched the video in which the PM praised him and Jenny for saving his life.

And just hours later, the nurse, originally from Portugal but living in west London, was praised by
his country’s president as a hero.

“To be thanked by the Prime Minister and the Portuguese President within the same few hours was amazing, I couldn’t really believe what was happening,” said 29-year-old Luis.

“Apparently I’m a celebrity in Portugal now! It’s great to get more recognition for nurses there.”

However, modest Luis has not let the fame go to his head and says the priority now is continuing to care for patients.

“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,” he said. “There are lives to save and a team to support.”

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