The father of a Portuguese nurse who helped care for Boris Johnson while he was in intensive care has said his son “got a bit of a fright” and initially worried he had done something wrong when he received an urgent call to go to the London hospital where he works.
It turned that Luis Pitarma must have done most things right. The medical team guiding Mr Johnson’s Covid-19 treatment wanted Mr Pitarma to be on the team caring for the severely ill Prime Minister, the nurse’s father said.
After the PM was discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital on Sunday, he specifically thanked Mr Pitarma and a colleague from New Zealand, Jenny McGee, for the skill and devotion they showed during his time in the intensive care unit.
Mr Pitarma’s parents found out their son had the UK leader as a patient after Mr Johnson spent three nights in the ICU. Due to hospital rules, the nurse could not call to share the information until after the PM had returned to a regular ward.
“He said, ‘Mum and dad, you’ll never guess who I’ve been treating – the British Prime Minister!” his father, who is also named Luis, told the Associated Press.
The nurse described Mr Johnson as “very approachable”.
“My son asked the Prime Minister how he should address him. He replied, ‘Call me Boris, that’s enough’,” Mr Pitarma Snr recounted.
He said his son was picked to help care for Mr Johnson partly because of his medical training, which includes expertise in oxygenation — a key element in Covid-19 treatment.
The nurse was involved in the “most crucial” 48 hours of the premier’s time in hospital, he told his father.
Mr Johnson was admitted to St Thomas’ on April 5 and moved to the ICU the next night. Officials said he received oxygen but was not put on a ventilator.
As well as earning the PM’s public praise, Mr Pitarma received a call from Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa thanking him for his role in treating Mr Johnson.
Mr Pitarma Snr, a gas appliance technician in Aveiro, a coastal city in northern Portugal, said he and his wife have since been bombarded with congratulations from family, friends and clients.
“We’re not used to this kind of thing,” he said in a Skype interview from Aveiro.
He said his son has been working in the UK as a nurse for six year, and his parents are “happy and proud” that his dedication has been recognised.
“To quote my son, he said he treated (Johnson) the same was as he would a rich person or a poor person. The principle is always the same: first of all, care for the patient,” he said.