Jenny from Invercargill: Boris Johnson’s nurse reflects on international fame

The Otago Daily Times asks prominent Southerners how they have been getting through a year dominated by Covid-19. Reporter Karen Pasco talks to London-based Southlander, nurse Jenny McGee.

When I reflect on 2020, I think … that while most people have had a tough year, despite the lows of the pandemic, this will always be a special year for me. Professionally, beyond looking after Boris Johnson and the recognition I received as a result, I have worked and helped lead the most hardworking, dedicated team and the teamwork I experienced when times were tough was inspiring. Personally, I made some drastic changes to my lifestyle and as a result have lost over 60kg. I’ve never felt better! I also made my parents incredibly proud. When they were terribly worried about me in a country that is ravaged by Covid, there I was on the 6 o’clock news, very well and thriving.

I survived by … having the support of my lovely boyfriend Euge. He can never understand what I go through in an intensive care unit in a pandemic, but he listens and gives amazing foot rubs. Also my fellow intensive care nurse best friends who do understand. Always there for each other, always up for s… and giggles, we are riding the pandemic wave together.

I discovered I really liked … coriander and mint, together, in anything I can put it in! Also oat milk, a huge sin against my dairy farming, Edendale-born-and-bred upbringing.

I discovered I didn’t like … being so far away from New Zealand. I have always lived happily in London knowing I could be home in a day or two if needed. Now that’s not the case, and I miss home more than ever.

I think 2021 will be … not the amazing year everyone is desperate for after the shocker of 2020. I hope it will be better than 2020 but things are going to take a long time to recover from Covid-19, vaccine or no vaccine.

The biggest challenge I faced in 2020 … obviously working in a pandemic and keeping myself mentally and physically well. Witnessing devastating human loss, having to absorb grief and loss from families, having to keep morale high to a team who are stressed, overworked and scared.

I was most surprised by … being publicly praised by Boris Johnson for my care of him. I had no warning it was coming and my life went a bit nuts for a few days. New Zealand’s response was lovely and it was a pleasure to make so many people proud — and I’ve been to 10 Downing Street. It looks just like it does in the movie Love Actually — so surreal and I’ll never forget the experience.

My favourite memory from this year is … seeing Mike and Caroline (Mum and Dad) on TV and Mum saying that as an intensive care nurse I “twiddle with knobs for 12 hours”. I’ll never live this down at work. Also getting a puppy! Little Gerald is the most delightful little Dachshund puppy that me and Euge are just in love with!

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