Queen Elizabeth II of England addressed medical professionals during a videoconference about her own experience with COVID-19, which she defined as “the horrible pandemic”.
The monarch spoke to patients and staff at the Royal London Hospital during a virtual tour which marked the official opening of the Queen Elizabeth Unit, a 155-bed intensive care facility built in just five weeks at the the height of the pandemic. Elizabeth tested positive for coronavirus in February and suffered what Buckingham Palace described as “mild cold symptoms”.
“That leaves someone very tired and exhausted, doesn’t it?” she said Asef Hussain, a recovering COVID-19 patient, and his wife, Shamina. “This horrible pandemic,” she added.
The unit has treated around 800 coronavirus patients from north east London, with staff recruited from across the region, including retired doctors and nurses and even soldiers recruited to help.
With friends and family barred from the hospital by strict virus control measures, nurses did their best to comfort critically ill patients, senior nurse Mireia López told Elizabeth. Rey Ferrer.
“As nurses, we made sure they weren’t alone,” López Rey said. “We held their hands, we wiped away their tears and we brought them comfort. Sometimes it felt like we were running a marathon with no finish line,” she explained.
Hussain was the third member of his family hospitalized with COVID-19 at the end of December 2020. His brother died first, then his father died while Hussain was on a ventilator.
“I remember waking up one morning and having trouble breathing,” he said. “I remember waking my wife up telling her that it 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 explained.
He was on a ventilator for seven weeks and only recently was able to stop using a wheelchair.
The nurses helped boost Hussain’s spirits by hosting video calls on a tablet. Shamina Hussain told the Queen that 500 friends and family from around the world came together in a single conference call to pray for her husband.
“So you have a big family, or a big influence on people,” the queen replied.
The couple smiles.