Lord Laird, one of Northern Ireland’s best-known peers, is refusing to feel sorry for himself despite being rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital with heart problems
Instead the high-living PR man and politician, who is the House of Lords’ most expensive peer, is spreading cheer among fellow patients.
“It’s great craic in here and I’m keeping my chin up,” Lord Laird told the Belfast Telegraph from his hospital bed. “If anyone is feeling low they should book themselves into the cardiac ward. If you come out of theatre, you’ll come out in stitches.”
He added: “On New Year’s Eve the nurses kept asking us if we wanted a bottle, which was very funny. If this was Butlins I’d come and spend my holidays here.”
Lord Laird suffered a heart attack three years ago this month, which led to surgery and an absence of 20 weeks from the Lords.
He was hospitalised again in August 2007 after returning to work too soon, but his most recent attack came out of the blue.
“I was feeling completely fine until my defibrillator went off six times on Boxing Day after I had gone to bed,” he said.
“I was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital by ambulance and after a few days tests found there was nothing wrong with my heart.
“The machine has to be replaced, which is a bit of an operation, but I’m hugely relieved that it’s the machine and not me that’s gone.” And although he has not yet been given a date for surgery, Lord Laird has nothing but praise for the hospital staff.
“This is my third emergency entrance to a Belfast hospital and I would never let anyone say anything bad about the NHS,” he said.
“In the cardiac ward you’re part of a team. It’s very humbling to be among medical people when you see their hard work, dedication and human touch.”
The Artigarvan man said he would support hospitals being given more resources.
“You get the impression they’re understaffed,” he said.
“The surgeons we have are absolutely phenomenal and if politicians thought we needed more of them I would be in support of that.”