The Duchess of Cambridge was left heartbroken by stories from frontline workers in Canada after she and her husband Prince William called staff for Canada Day.
Kate and William heard from doctors and nurses working during the coronavirus pandemic in the commonwealth nation, as the royals paid tribute to the country on its national day.
The couple heard stories from the frontline, including one of a patient’s wife had sung to him from a phone held in a bag as staff tried to keep people connected during the crisis.
Kate replied: “That’s heartbreaking to hear. You guys see that and feel that on a daily basis. How do you manage yourself? Are you all OK?”
The duke and duchess, both 38, also said they hope to visit Canada again when the lockdown restrictions are over.
William said to the socially distanced staff at Fraser Health’s Surrey Memorial Hospital in British Columbia: “I just wanted to just touch base and say how proud we are of all of you and everyone on the front line who have led the way, very stoically, very bravely and put patient care right at the top of the list, and done a fantastic job.
“So, well done to all of you, and I hope Catherine and I can come and visit you guys one day and say that to you in person.”
Kate added: “It’s an amazing role that you’re playing and a hugely tough one as well, so we’re in huge admiration for everything you’re doing.”
They also spoke to Sunny Dulai, a healthcare social worker who is pregnant and hasn’t been able to see her siblings throughout the pandemic.
William asked: “Sunny, is it right in saying a little birdie says you’re expecting in September? How have you found it? How has it been working?”
Dulai told them about how the crisis had affected her mental health, saying: “Initially I was like ‘No, I can do this’, emotionally, it wasn’t really impacting me.
“Then, as I got later in my pregnancy and the more the pandemic started to move along, it really did impact my mental health.
“I felt like I was angrier because I didn’t have the support networks at home that I typically have.”
She added: “But I never once felt that I needed to stop working where I work, because of the support I got from my team.”
The staff told the couple about how they were sad to have to lose the family-centred care they usually provide, because visitors couldn’t come into the hospital.
Dulai said: “These families can’t come in to see patients. They can’t come in to see their loved ones. They can’t be a part of their care. And so it’s a lot of distress, I think, all the way around.”
Fraser Health provides care for more than 1.8 million people in the BC region, alongside four other regional health authorities. It has cared for many critically ill COVID-19 patients.
Dr Gregory Haljan, head of the hospital’s critical care and regional medical director for research for Fraser Health, told the royal couple: “We’ve made it through the surge and now we’re into the recovery phase where we’re trying to take stock of all our stories and what we’ve been through and find the meaning in everything we’ve lost and everything we’ve gained so we can build some resilience for whatever comes next.”
Before they went, the duke sent critical care nurse Priya Sangha off to bed, hearing she had finished a long shift.
William joked: “We don’t want to hold you guys up much longer because Priya needs to go to bed.
“Not that you’re looking tired, Priya, but I imagine you’ve been on for the last 12 hours.”
The couple also had a technical issue at the beginning of the call, leading to an oft-heard comment in the era of video calls as William asked: “Can you see us?”
Issue rectified, the workers cheered when they could see the royals.
Canada Day is marked on 1 July, and celebrates the union of British colonies of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with the province of Canada.