Thu, Apr 7, 2022 9:39 AM

Nurse Jenny to share story about UK frontlines of Covid



Jo Kent

The Kiwi nurse who helped treat the British Prime Minister when he had Covid-19 is giving talks about her experiences as a London ICU nurse during the pandemic.

Jenny McGee, whose parents live in Redwood Valley, Richmond, is back in the country after a gruelling two years working on the frontline as an NHS nurse.

“It took me a very, very long time to get a spot in MIQ, but I’m finally home for a couple of months to spend as much time as I can with my family,” she says. “I haven’t had extended time off for a few years so it’s therapeutic being home.”

Jenny was catapulted into the media spotlight after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital where she worked.

“I looked after him with one other nurse and when he was discharged, Boris thanked us in a public address and credited us for saving his life. From that point on, my world exploded.”

Jenny says she’s been on a wild ride ever since with offers of book deals, TV appearances and sack loads of fan mail.

“I was just doing my job, but even coming back to New Zealand two years after it happened, I was asked to appear on TVNZ’s Breakfast show. It’s nuts.”

She puts the media frenzy down to the fact the world needed a feelgood story in the middle of the first wave of Covid when the world was in lockdown.

“Jacinda Ardern messaged me and thanked me personally and the whole country was just so proud that a Kiwi nurse had helped save the Prime Minister’s life. It was a positive story during such an awful time.”

But despite the media storm Jenny found herself in, the mental and physical burnout of her job had already started to take its toll.

“You won’t find anyone who was more in the thick of it than me and experiencing how hard that was. New Zealand still has a tough time understanding what that was like, but I want to describe it to people if I can, so they can appreciate how well this country has done.”

She says the main difference between New Zealand and the UK during the pandemic was the loss of life.

“It was on a whole different level. We are talking over 100,000 deaths from Covid. And in London, everyone knows someone who has lost someone to Covid. Here, no one really knows anyone who has died of it, not on that scale, and that’s the big difference. It was so dark in the UK, such dark times because of the sheer loss of life and the sheer tragedy that was going on. It was so all consuming and a really depressing time.”

The British public didn’t start getting vaccinated until a year after Covid hit, and Jenny says that’s the number one reason why it was so bad in the UK.

“By the time Omicron made it to New Zealand, the country had 95 per cent of their population double vaxxed, which is incredible. The country effectively had two years to prepare for a virus that came and by the time it arrived, it was a lot milder version.”

After publicly resigning from the NHS in May last year, Jenny worked in Curaçao, in the Caribbean, for several months before returning to London to do vaccination work.

“It was incredible to be able to go to the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. It really helped me heal from the first and second wave of Covid because that was a dark period of my life and my career, but one that I'm immensely proud of. I've shown a lot of resilience and I've taken a lot from it. I feel very lucky to have been able to go out and do that.”

During her time in New Zealand, Jenny will be talking about her experiences to fundraise the Waimea Soroptimists.

“My mum is an active member of the charity and I’m happy to be able to give back in any way I can. What an awesome thing to be able to do.”

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