Boris Johnson has spoken of his dramatic stay in intensive care as doctors faced a “50-50” decision on whether to put him on a ventilator and plans were drawn up on how to announce his death.
In an interview with the Sun on Sunday, the prime minister said he needed “litres and litres” of oxygen but he got through his ordeal with “terrible buoyancy” that left him convinced he could make it.
He also admitted he had worked throughout the early stage of his illness and not taken the disease seriously enough, having to be “forced” to go to hospital on the advice of doctors.
Johnson came out of a three-night stay in intensive care at St Thomas’ hospital in Westminster on 9 April and spent two weeks recovering at Chequers. His baby with fiancee Carrie Symonds was born on Wednesday morning, within days of their return to Downing Street.
The PM returned to work on Monday. He told the paper: “To be honest, the doctors had all sorts of plans for what to do if things went badly wrong. I was not in particularly brilliant shape because the oxygen levels in my blood kept going down.
“But it was thanks to some wonderful, wonderful nursing that I made it. They really did it and they made a huge difference.”
Johnson, 55, tested positive for the virus in late March and went into isolation at a flat in 11 Downing Street for an initial period of seven days, separated from Symonds. The public were told he had persistent symptoms, including a temperature.
He said: “The thing was, I was in denial because I was working and I kept doing these meetings by video link. But I was really feeling pretty groggy, to be totally honest with you. I was feeling pretty wasted – not in an intoxicated way, but just, you know, pretty rough.”
By the time he ended up in hospital he explained how he needed “litres and litres” of oxygen, which was delivered by a tube fitted under his nose.
That was then switched to a large face mask and, when his condition worsened, he was moved into intensive care, with doctors having to decide whether to put him into an induced coma and on to a ventilator.
He said: “I was fully conscious and all too aware of what was going on. The bad moment came when it was 50-50 whether they were going to have to put a tube down my windpipe.
“They were starting to think about how to handle it presentationally. It was a tough old moment. I won’t deny it.”
He thanked the medical team that helped him, including the nursing staff Jenny McGee and Luis Pitarma, who he first praised in a social media clip he released after his stay in hospital.
Two doctors that treated him, Dr Nick Price and Dr Nick Hart, were the inspiration for his new son Wilfred’s middle name, Nicholas, Symonds said on Saturday.