LONDON (AP) — After recently recovering from COVID-19, Queen Elizabeth II spoke with patients, doctors and nurses at a London hospital last week, hearing their stories about life on the front lines of the fight against pandemic.
The monarch spoke to patients and staff at the Royal London Hospital during a virtual visit to officially open the Queen Elizabeth Unit, a 155-bed intensive care ward that was built in just five weeks during the height of the pandemic. Elizabeth tested positive for COVID-19 in February and presented “moderate symptoms,” according to Buckingham Palace.
“It makes you very tired and drained, right?” patient Asef Hussain, who is recovering from COVID-19, and his wife Shamina told him. “This terrible pandemic.”
The unit has treated some 800 coronavirus patients in northeast London, with staff recruited from across the region, including retired doctors and nurses and even some soldiers.
Without friends or relatives being able to visit them in hospital due to the strong measures implemented to control the virus, the nursing staff did everything they could to comfort seriously ill patients, head nurse Mireia López Rey Ferrer told the queen.
“As nurses, we made sure they weren’t alone,” said López Rey. “We held their hands, wiped their tears and comforted them. At times, it felt like we were running a marathon with no 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 passed away while Hussain was on a ventilator.
“I remember waking up one morning and having a lot of trouble breathing,” he said. “I remember waking up my wife and telling her that she felt there was no oxygen in the room. I remember sticking my head out the window, just trying to breathe, to get that extra oxygen.”
He was on a ventilator for seven weeks and only recently got out of a wheelchair.
Nursing staff helped lift her spirits by making video calls on a tablet. Shamina Hussain told the queen that 500 friends and relatives from all over the world participated in a session to pray for her husband.
“So you have a big family, or a big influence on people,” the queen joked.
The couple smiled.