Staff at our hospitals have been reminiscing about meeting and treating King Charles over the past 30 years – and remember him as “the ideal patient”.
On 11 January 1989, the then Prince Charles visited the Queen’s Medical Centre to meet survivors of the Kegworth air disaster and to chat with staff who cared for them.
Days earlier, a Boeing 737 - en route to Belfast from Heathrow with 126 people on board - was forced to divert to East Midlands Airport for an emergency landing after developing engine trouble. The plane came down short of the runway, smashing into the embankment on the side of the M1. Of the 79 survivors, 74 were seriously injured.
Nurse Lynn Dyer was not working that night, but was called in to the Emergency Department and remembers the survivors arriving.
“I can remember it as vividly as anything – even down to the clothes people were wearing. I was in Resus with consultants.”
Lynn – who now works in Infection Control – lined up outside with her colleagues for the royal visit.
“It was a freezing January day,” she said. “Charles commented on how cold it was, and I said I should have put my thermals on! He said we should all go back inside and have a hot toddy – I told him I wasn’t allowed to drink on duty!
“It was a very proud moment in my career and one I will never forget – not only meeting Prince Charles – who had no airs and graces - but being part of the Resus team that night.”
Senior staff nurse Gail Burbage was at home when she was called in to look after Prince Charles on ward D9 when he broke his elbow in a polo match in 1990.
“I jumped at the chance,” said Gail.
Charles had a three-hour op and was in a normal side room on the ward, with a small bay occupied by his security team and personal assistants throughout his week-long stay.
“It was an honour to care for him. He was personable, chatty – the ideal patient. Of course, we had certain protocol we had to follow but he kept it all light-hearted and made it easy for us.”
Charles brought his own chefs to QMC as he didn’t want to cause any unnecessary work for the catering staff. Despite this, he was curious to sample the food.
“I went to the ward next door to get a menu. We came up with a plan to order a meal for him using a made-up name so no-one would know it was for the Prince. He ate it off the plastic trays we used at the time. He said it was really well-balanced!
“When he was able to start moving around, he would stop and speak to everyone – nurses, doctors, porters, cleaners – he wanted to know how we operated.”
After his stay, Charles sent Christmas cards and gifts from Harrods to all the staff that had cared for him.
The following year, he organised a charity polo match at Royal Windsor against Alpha Romeo and all those involved in his care were invited along to watch. The match raised £25,000 which Charles donated to NUH for medical equipment.
Gail said: “It was a great day – I was pregnant with my daughter Amy at the time.”
“Charles returned in 1992 to open the QMC daycase unit and theatre service centre, and visited ward B3. By then I was a Sister, and when he came in, he said hello and congratulated me on my promotion!”
Charles also opened the multi-faith centre at QMC in 1999, the Breast Institute and the £6.9m Emergency Department - now home to Channel 4’s 24 Hours in A&E - in 2004.
This weekend – after 42 years in the NHS – Gail is taking some much needed time off from her role as a rheumatology consultant nurse.
“I’ll be watching the coronation live with my mother-in-law and Amy. My mother-in-law Marie is 92 so we’ll be having a nice little picnic and a cup of tea.”