WELLINGTON – Nurse Jenny from New Zealand says that helping save somebody as notable as Boris Johnson in his battle with the coronavirus didn't faze her thanks to her years of dealing with stressful situations in intensive care wards.
Jenny McGee was one of two National Health Service nurses who were singled out for praise by the British prime minister after he was discharged from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London earlier this month. Johnson, 55, was the first world leader confirmed to have the virus.
In an interview with Television New Zealand that aired Thursday, McGee said the staff treated Johnson as just another patient. She has worked for 10 years in intensive care, including five as a leader.
“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 because I thought ‘Wow. I’ve been looking after him,’” she said. “But I really wasn’t fazed by looking after Boris Johnson.”
But she was taken by surprise when he mentioned her by name.
“My first reaction was that it was a joke. I thought my friends were playing a joke on me. I wasn’t expecting it,” she said.
McGee told TVNZ that in her role she is constantly monitoring her patients and giving feedback to the doctor.
Johnson had said the nurses — he also praised Luis from Portugal — made needed interventions, but McGee declined to say what they were out of respect for patient privacy.
“He was interested in where I came from and what my story was, and we spent a lot of time together and we talked away about New Zealand,” McGee said.
She said another shock came when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern messaged her.
“So on the night that it happened I had to turn my phone off because it was so overwhelming and when I turned my phone on in the morning people were like ‘Jenny, you need to look at your Facebook' and I was called a snob for not responding to Jacinda,” she said, laughing.
“She’s a hero of mine. I think she’s amazing, she just said how proud she was of me and the country was so proud and it was so heart-warming and that’s something I will never forget.”
McGee told TVNZ the work during the pandemic has been physically exhausting and emotionally straining as she and her colleagues do their best to save as many lives as they can.
“The darkest moment most definitely is being with someone who has passed away and their family is not there,” she said.
She said there remains a wonderful sense of spirit and teamwork in the NHS and everyone is supporting each other.