The parents of a Portuguese nurse who treated Boris Johnson said he got a “bit of a fright” when he was urgently called to work.
Luis Pitarma worried he had done something wrong before he realised he had been brought in to help the ill prime minister, who had to be moved to intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital in London after his coronavirus symptoms worsened.
Pitarma was one of two medics name-checked by Johnson in a Twitter video after the PM was discharged on Sunday, along with Jenny McGee, from New Zealand.
His father, who is also called Luis, said he was called by his son after Johnson was transferred from the intensive care unit – hospital rules do not allow staff to share information until a patient is in a regular ward.
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“He said, ‘Mum and dad, you’ll never guess who I’ve been treating – the British prime minister,’” Luis senior said.
The nurse described Johnson as “very approachable” and said that when he asked Johnson how to address him, he was told “call me Boris, that’s enough”.
Johnson was admitted to the hospital on 5 April and transferred to intensive care a day later. He was given oxygen but not put on a ventilator.
Luis senior said his son was picked to help because of his training, which includes expertise in oxygenation, which is crucial in treating COVID-19 patients.
Pitarma has worked as a nurse in the UK for six years, his father said.
He said his son was involved in the “most crucial” 48 hours of Johnson’s time in hospital.
In the prime minister’s video Johnson said Pitarma and McGee watched over him for a night to make interventions he needed to recover form his worsening COVID-19 symptoms.
It is hard to find the words to express my debt to the NHS for saving my life.
The efforts of millions of people across this country to stay home are worth it. Together we will overcome this challenge, as we have overcome so many challenges in the past. #StayHomeSaveLives pic.twitter.com/HK7Ch8BMB5
— Boris Johnson #StayHomeSaveLives (@BorisJohnson) April 12, 2020
Pitarma has received a call from Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to thank him for helping treat Johnson.
Luis senior, a gas appliance technician from Aveiro in northern Portugal, and his wife have been inundated with congratulations.
“We’re not used to this kind of thing,” he said, adding that he and his wife are proud their son’s 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.”