Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall helped lift the spirits of patients during a whistle-stop visit to the new North West Cancer Centre in Londonderry.
Patients in Ward 50 of Altnagelvin Hospital were amused by staff mass-mopping floors, cleaning windows, straightening beds and polishing door knobs until midnight, ahead of the royal visit yesterday.
Prince Charles and Camilla were in the city to officially open the new £50million radiotherapy centre, which serves cancer patients in the North West and houses the most advanced medical technology. The centre admitted its first patients last November.
From early morning the hospital was a hive of activity. Police marksmen positioned themselves on the roof as uniformed officers patrolled the perimeters.
Staff in freshly-pressed uniforms and beaming smiles lined the halls awaiting the royal guests while, further down the corridor, ward life went on as normal, with patients undergoing scans and chemotherapy.
The Prince and his wife arrived in a police motorcycle-led cavalcade shortly after 3pm and were taken directly to Ward 50, the main cancer unit where patients receive their treatment.
There they talked and laughed with patients and their families as they made their way to view the new CT and Linac scanners.
Waterside man Robert Mawhinney, who is 99 years old and receiving treatment for cancer, said the Prince's visit lifted his spirits.
"He was exceptionally nice," said Robert. "He came in to my room, asked about how I was and how long I was in for and we talked. I said that I remember the original hospital being built and now I'm in the new centre. We had a laugh and a joke. He was such a nice man, meeting him lifted my spirits no end."
Castlederg man Ivan Clarke is going through chemotherapy for bone cancer and says Prince Charles was really interested in how he was doing.
"He asked me about what I thought of the facility and the treatment, and how far I had to travel to the hospital," he said.
"He was asking me about my diet. We were laughing and he said that what usually happens is that they take you off the foods you love and make you eat foods you don't like. He just spoke like an ordinary man to me.
"He was lovely. It can get very monotonous in here. All the action with the staff cleaning last night and all the activity today certainly broke up the day."
The royal couple went out to the centre's roof garden for a special audience with former Templemore School principal Joan Doherty, who is being treated for breast cancer, and her husband Ken. The Prince vowed to pray for the popular teacher and wished her well in her recovery.
Camilla remarked that she would like to be kept up to date with Mrs Doherty's progress.
"He was very pleasant and down to earth," said Joan. "He asked me about my treatment and I told him that I was on my sixth round of chemotherapy and that it was so reassuring to me that I didn't have to travel to Belfast or elsewhere to be treated. He said he was amazed at the amount of people who travelled here for treatment. He had met patients from Donegal, Derry and Strabane.
"He was very interested in how I was doing. He said that he would say a prayer for me. It was a special moment, very moving. They were so genuine and lovely. I felt that they really cared."
Staff gathered in the centre's lobby to see the Prince and Duchess unveil a plaque to mark the official opening.