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Top surgeon is clapped in corridors after his own six-week coronavirus battle

Popular doctor thanked colleagues at Royal Free for helping him to recover from Covid-19

21 May, 2020 — By Tom Foot

A cameraphone moment as nurses celebrate in the corridors

AS one of the Royal Free’s most respected consultants, Professor Olagunju Ogunbiyi will know the hospital’s wards and corridors like the back of his hand.

But never can he have seen them quite like Friday afternoon, when colleagues crowded around and cheered to the rafters in his honour after he emerged victorious from his own personal battle with the coronavirus.

Amid the greatest challenge of their lives, the staff at the Hampstead hospital have enjoyed the ritual of clapping out all patients who recover from Covid-19.

But there was special enthusiasm for Professor Ogunbiyi, who insiders say is one of the most popular and approachable doctors in the building. As he prepared to return home after more than a month of treatment, colleagues appeared with mobile phones, like fans at rock star’s dressing room door, a measure of who the real heroes of the pandemic response have unfailingly turned out to be.

After being wheeled through the applause, he told them that he had to recover further but wanted to be “back soon”.

At the end of the corridor, he stood and praised the “superb” care in the intensive care unit, which despite the headline figures about the number of Covid-19 deaths has also seen hundreds of patients pull through. A butterfly on the wall symbolises each success story.

A thank you speech for colleagues at the Royal Free

In his speech, filmed for posterity by nurses in the corridor, Professor Ogunbiyi said: “It is just over six weeks since I came here, feeling very ill. I put my trust in my colleagues – they haven’t disappointed. The care I received on intensive care unit has been superb, second to none.”

He added: “The time after I woke-up, after about two and half weeks – the staff made a potentially embarrassing situation a non-event. “I don’t think I could have got better care anywhere.”

Professor Ogunbiyi is a pioneering expert in colorectal surgery and a long-server at the Free.

“When I came up to ward, same thing – everything has been perfect. I put my trust in the Royal Free, and they came up trumps,” he said. “It is the first time I have been hospitalised in my life, to have a life-threatening illness – and to come through it. Well, if you look at statistics, they were all against me. “So now I go home and recover. I need to get my legs. I can’t believe my legs, they are like jelly. It’s as if I’m learning how to walk again. But I shall be back soon, many thanks to everyone.”

Prof Ogunbiyi before he fell ill

Professor Ogunbiyi, who started practicing in 1987, specialises in laparoscopic surgery, endoscopy and general surgery.

The footage of him leaving hospital echoed the emotional scenes that greeted former councillor and nurse Nancy Jirira after she recovered after being given a 50/50 chance.

A Royal Free spokesperson confirmed Professor Ogunbiyi had Covid-19 and provided a statement on his behalf. It said: “Thank you to all the staff who looked after me. I had excellent care and am forever in their debt for saving my life.”

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