By DANICA KIRKA – Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II felt empathetic with patients, doctors and nurses at a London hospital last week after her own recent battle with COVID-19 as she listened to their stories of life on the frontlines of the pandemic.
The monarch spoke to patients and staff at the Royal London Hospital during a virtual visit that marked the official inauguration of the Queen Elizabeth Unit, a 155-bed intensive care unit built in just five weeks at the height of the pandemic. Elizabeth tested positive for COVID-19 in February and was suffering from what Buckingham Palace described as “mild, cold-like symptoms”.
“It makes you very tired and exhausted, doesn’t it?” she told recovering COVID-19 patient Asef Hussain and his wife Shamina. “This terrible pandemic.”
The unit has treated around 800 coronavirus patients from across north-east London, with staff recruited from across the region, including retired doctors and nurses and even soldiers drafted to help.
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With friends and family members barred from the hospital by strict virus control measures, nurses were doing their best to comfort critically ill patients, senior nurse Mireia López Rey Ferrer told Elizabeth.
“As nurses, we made sure they weren’t alone,” López Rey said. “We held their hands, wiped away their tears and offered comfort. At times it felt like we were running a marathon without a finish line.”
Hussain was the third member of his family to be hospitalized with COVID-19 in late December 2020. His brother died first, then his father died while Hussain was on a ventilator.
“I remember waking up one morning and just finding it really, really hard to breathe,” he said. “I remember waking up my wife and saying I felt like there was no oxygen in the room. I remember sticking my head out the window, just trying to breathe, trying to get that extra oxygen.”
He was on a ventilator for seven weeks and was only recently able to give up using a wheelchair.
Nurses helped lift Hussain’s spirits by arranging video calls on a tablet computer. Shamina Hussain told the Queen that 500 friends and family members around the world dialed into a conference call to pray for her husband.
“So you have a big family or a big impact on people,” the queen quipped.
Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at http://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
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