An NHS hero who Boris Johnson credited with helping to save his life told his mother he was surprised at how ‘down-to-earth’ the Prime Minister was.
Portuguese expat Luis Pitarma, 29, was one of the two nurses singled out for praise by Mr Johnson after he left St Thomas Hospital following three nights in intensive care battling coronavirus.
The Conservative party leader, 55, told how Luis and a New Zealand nurse he named only as Jenny but was later identified as Jenny McGee, 35, had ‘stood by his bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way.’
Mr Pitarma has shied clear of speaking publicly about his experience.
But his proud mother Edite said today he had spoken highly about the PM in conversations they have had since he won his Covid-19 fight.
Portuguese expat Luis Pitarma, 29, (pictured) was one of the two nurses singled out for praise by Mr Johnson after he left St Thomas Hospital following three nights in intensive care battling coronavirus
Mr Pitarma, from Aveiro, Portgual, circled in red, with colleagues. The nurse helped save Mr Johnson’s life and was praised by Portugal’s President
Luis told her in a phone call last Thursday he was looking after Boris, although she confessed today she ‘had a feeling’ already because she knew her son worked at the London hospital where the PM was a patient and had not tried but not managed to get through to him for several days.
Speaking from her home in Aveiro near the northern Portuguese city of Porto where Luis was born, Edite told Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias: ‘Luis has said he was pleasantly surprised by how nice and down-to-earth Mr Johnson was.
‘He asked him to call him Boris and he wanted to know who he was, where he had been born and how long he had worked in England for.
‘Luis told him he was from Aveiro near Porto and he obviously remembered that. He told Luis he loved Porto and Portugal.’
She also revealed the PM personally thanked her son when he left intensive care and promised they would meet again, sparking speculation Luis and Jenny may get an invitation to Downing Street when Boris is better and Britain’s coronavirus lockdown is lifted.
Explaining her son’s reluctance to go public with his experience, Edite added: ‘He just wants to continue to be anonymous.
‘He hasn’t even been staying in an apartment he moved into a few weeks ago. He’s been living in a hotel his hospital booked him so he could stay out of the public eye.’
Luis Pitarma’s (pictured) firefighter cousin Ivo Pitarma, who lives in Aveiro, said: ‘I’m obviously very proud’
Ms McGee (left) and Mr Pitarma (right) were singled out for praise by Prime Minister Boris Johnson after treating him during his stay in intensive care
Ms McGee, pictured left, has been in the UK for eight years after undertaking her Overseas Education (OE) here then moving to St Thomas’ in central London
Yesterday Luis’ little sister Sonia told a Portuguese TV interviewer Edite had steered the hero NHS nurse away from his original career plan, adding: ‘At one time he wanted to become as much an actor as a doctor.’
Sonia, who was also a health worker before getting a job with a ceramics firm, said on broadcaster TVI: ‘What’s happened is a great source of pride for our family.
‘I knew my brother is a wonderful professional but I wasn’t expecting it to have such an impact.
‘Luis would look after anyone in the same way, whether it be a Prime Minister, a rich person or a poor person.
‘I know he’s my brother but I have to say he’s a very humble person.’
Proud Edite also revealed her son was still grieving the loss of a young female patient when he was asked to care for Boris Johnson.
She told Cristina Ferreira, a presenter on Portuguese TV channel SIC: ‘Luis told me last Thursday he was looking after the British Prime Minister.
‘He said that when they rang him and told him who he was going to care for, he started shaking.
‘All patients are important but obviously a Prime Minister is someone who holds a great position of responsibility.’
Recalling Luis’ departure for the UK for professional reasons when he struggled to find employment in Portugal after qualifying as a nurse, she added: ‘I still remember the day Luis left for England. It was June 12 2014. It was the saddest day of my life.
‘He had no work here. He sent more than 200 CVs out and no-one called and he had to leave.
‘The day before he started looking after Boris Johnson, a 22-year-old girl who was ill died and he was very sad.’
Mr Johnson’s video message from inside no 10 this afternoon, after he was discharged from hospital
The Prime Minister is spotted in the back of a car in Downing Street on Sunday afternoon
A statement issued by the Portuguese president’s office on Sunday after his UK counterpart name-checked Luis, said: ‘Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa would like to highlight the special recognition the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given Portuguese nurse Luis Pitarma for his work and care during his time in intensive care.
‘The President of the Republic has already personally transmitted his gratitude to the nurse Luis Pitarma and in his name, he also thanks the commitment of all Portuguese health professionals who in Portugal and around the world are providing decisive help in the fight to the pandemic. A word of encouragement that is also addressed to professionals of other nationalities who, reinforcing the National Health Service, provide an invaluable service to Portugal.’
Luis’ firefighter cousin Ivo Pitarma, who lives in Aveiro, said as news seeped out about the identify of the hero NHS worker: ‘I’m obviously very proud.
‘I knew of course that Luis was a nurse in London but had no idea he had been looking after Boris Johnson so this has come as a real surprise for me.’
In a video recorded shortly after he was discharged from St Thomas’s Hospital, Mr Johnson thanked the ‘utterly brilliant’ doctors, and praised the nurses for their ‘astonishing’ care.
He said: ‘I want to thank the many nurses, men and women, whose care has been so astonishing. I am going to forget some names, so forgive me, but I want to thank Po Ling and Shannon and Emily and Angel and Connie and Becky and Rachael and Nicky and Ann.’
Mr Johnson – who has now been reunited with fiancée Carrie Symonds – reserved special acclaim for two more, who he described as ‘Jenny from New Zealand, Invercargill on the South Island to be exact, and Luis from Portugal, near Porto’.
He continued: ‘The reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed.’
Yesterday the family of hero NHS nurse Jenny McGee when he was fighting for his life said they were ‘exceptionally proud’ of their ‘absolutely amazing’ daughter.
Rob McGee, Jenny’s brother, heaped praise on his sister and NHS staff. He told MailOnline last night: ‘She is very humble and is back at work now for another night shift.
‘She said she was just really pleased to see all the hard working people in the NHS be recognised for the amazing work they are doing.’
Jenny McGee’s family have been full of praise for her efforts in helping patients during the coronavirus pandemic
Ms McGee is pictured centre wearing a scarf with friends
Ms McGee’s proud parents Caroline and Mike said their daughter brushed off any praise and is just please the NHS is getting the recognition it deserves
Mr McGee added: ‘She is just doing her job, and that is how she sees it. This is what she was trained for, helping people who need care. [Medics are] special people.’
Ms McGee has been in the UK for eight years after studying here then moving to St Thomas’ in central London.
She previously worked at the Royal Melbourne Hospital for six years where she did her intensive care training.
Her other brother, Michael, told 1 News, he was also immensely appreciative of his sister.
He said: ‘We are all very proud of Jen, and to get acknowledged by Boris is something else.’
Her mother Caroline described her as an ‘exceptionally friendly person’ and a dedicated nurse.
She told Stuff that her daughter hadn’t told anyone she was nursing the PM until the news became public, making for a ‘bit of a surprise’ when her name was read out, but the whole family was ‘absolutely astounded and exceptionally proud’.
The mayor of her home city Sir Tim Shadbolt branded her actions ‘absolutely amazing’. He said: ‘It’s not very often a nurse from Invercargill saves the life of the British Prime Minister.’