LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered more insight into his hospitalization for coronavirus, telling a British newspaper that he knew doctors were preparing for the worst.
The 55-year-old Johnson, who spent three nights in intensive care during his week of treatment in a London hospital after falling ill with COVID-19, told The Sun newspaper he was aware that doctors were discussing his fate.
“It was a tough old moment, I won’t deny it,” he said.
“They had a strategy to deal with a ‘death of Stalin’-type scenario,” he said referring to the former leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin.
Johnson couldn’t believe how quickly his health had deteriorated and had difficulty understanding why he wasn’t getting better. Medical workers gave him “liters and liters of oxygen” but he said the “indicators kept going in the wrong direction.”
“But the bad moment came when it was 50-50 whether they were going to have to put a tube down my windpipe,” he told the newspaper. “That was when it got a bit … they were starting to think about how to handle it presentationally.”
The remarks were Johnson’s most candid yet on his brush with death, though he acknowledged when he left the hospital that his fight to survive “could have gone either way,” as he paid tribute to the two nurses who never left his bedside for 48 hours.
Jenny McGee from New Zealand and Luis Pitarma from Portugal, he said, embodied the caring and sacrifice of National Health Service staff on the front lines of the pandemic, which has already killed 28,131 people in Britain.
Johnson’s close call is reflected in the name that he and fiancée Carrie Symonds gave to their newborn son. Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson was named after Johnson and Symonds’ grandfathers and after Dr. Nick Price and Dr. Nick Hart — the two doctors who saved the prime minister’s life.
Johnson’s actions since leaving the hospital suggest the NHS has a powerful new advocate as it seeks to reverse a decade of austerity that has left Britain’s doctors and nurses struggling to treat the flood of coronavirus patients with inadequate supplies of protective gear. Dozens of NHS workers have died in the outbreak.
The interview follows an emotional video made by Johnson after being released from the hospital on April 12.
Johnson called the NHS “unconquerable” and “the beating heart of this country” after seeing its response to the outbreak first-hand. He also lauded the courage of everyone from doctors to cooks.
The prime minister returned to work on April 27.