New Zealand nurse Jenny McGee
In an image made from video taken on April 22, 2020, New Zealand nurse Jenny McGee speaks about her efforts to help save coronavirus patient British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during an interview in London. 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. Image Credit: AP

London: A New Zealand nurse who treated British Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he was in hospital with the coronavirus said she saw the world leader as "just another patient" and that she thought he was joking when he singled her out for praise.

Jenny McGee, who has worked for the National Health Service since 2010, told a New Zealand television station that she was unfazed by the task of caring for Johnson, who received the same care as any other patient and "absolutely needed to be there".

"There was a lot of media interest about him being in hospital and, to be honest, that was the toughest," McGee told TVNZ in an interview which aired on Thursday, her first public remarks since the episode.

"As a unit, he was just another patient we were trying to do our best for, so it was business as usual. It was just another day at the office," McGee added.

Johnson, 55, was taken to Guys and St Thomas' hospital on April 5 after his symptoms for COVID-19 worsened and he was moved into intensive care the following day, remaining there until April 9.

On being discharged on April 12, Johnson said in a video message, "the NHS saved my life, no question". He named and thanked the nurses who had cared for him, including "Jenny from New Zealand".

When Johnson sent that public message, McGee said in the interview, she was getting ready for her nightshift and a friend texted her the update.

First reaction

"My first reaction was that it was a joke," she said.

As McGee carried out intensive care duties, she said she and the prime minister "spent a lot of time together and we talked away about NZ", particularly about her home city of Invercargill, which she said he took an interest in.

After shifts caring for the British leader, she said she would get in her car and "hear things about Boris Johnson on the news that was very surreal because I thought 'wow, I've been looking after him'".

"But I really wasn't fazed by looking after Boris Johnson," she added.

Johnson wasn't the only national leader to congratulate McGee, who acknowledged she took longer than planned to respond to a message from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying "it's very surreal to have a message from Jacinda. She's a hero of mine." Once the nurse did respond to the New Zealand leader, the two shared "a little bit of banter which again was surreal, (and) a couple of emojis".