Coronavirus: Boris Johnson's nurse Jenny dreamed of becoming nurse - high school principal

The Kiwi woman instrumental in saving British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's life dreamed of being a nurse, the principal of the high school she attended says.

After being diagnosed with the respiratory illness COVID-19 last month, the British Prime Minister was hospitalised last week and had a brief stint in an intensive care unit, where he received oxygen treatment. 

Johnson was discharged on Monday and sent a video message to Brits which included a thanks to Portugal nurse Luis and 35-year-old Kiwi nurse Jenny McGee from Invercargill.

"The reason, in the end, my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed," the Prime Minister said.

McGee's outstanding work has now been recognised by everyone from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt. Jarlath Kelly, the principal of Verdon College, which she attended, says the school community is extremely proud of her. 

"I was incredibly excited that someone from Invercargill and Verdon College had been such an important part of a response to the COVID-19 crisis," he told Newshub.

"People were really excited and really proud that Jenny was able to be there at such an important time and help Boris Johnson through his illness. There is an overwhelming sense of pride in Jenny and the work she has done and for being recognised for her work as a nurse."

He said her former teachers described her as "delightful" and helpful", and noted that in her yearbook, she said she wanted to become a nurse. 

"We always would like our students to go on and support others in their lives and with the work they are doing. It is really exciting to see that she was able to be there in that pastoral way for Boris Johnson," Kelly said.

The Kiwi nurse's parents are also overflowing with pride. 

"For her, it was a very surreal time. She just couldn't believe that that was what was happening, that she was actually treating the prime minister of the UK," mother Caroline told Newshub

"We have seen photos of her at the end of the day and she just looks absolutely washed out and tired, but has to come back in 12 hours time to do it all again," said father Mike.

Ardern has sent the nurse a personal message on Facebook, but as of Monday afternoon had not yet heard back.

"Nor would I expect to hear back from her, necessarily at all. She's obviously on the frontline and I imagine will be very focused on her job."

Johnson is now recovering at Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence. He has tested negative for the virus, but won't immediately return to work on advice from his doctors.