A day in the life of a critical care nurse

gallery-image Touch of care: Leesa Surendran attends to a patient in the ICU at Manipal Hospitals in Hebbal, north Bengaluru.
gallery-image Teach time: Leesa with son and daughter—Kevin Chris and Alyssia Zeneta—at their home in Kaval Byrasandra. With her husband gone, Leesa is the sole breadwinner of her family.
gallery-image Long ride: Leesa has to change buses to reach the hospital. Earlier, her late husband would pick up and drop her at the hospital.
gallery-image No evening walk, this: Leesa takes the overhead bridge to the hospital for her night shift.
gallery-image Team work: Leesa in discussion with her colleagues.
gallery-image Call to action: Leesa at work in the ICU ward.

The face shield obscures ICU nurse Leesa Surendran’s smile. But her smile reaches her eyes, and that is enough to instil confidence in the semi-conscious patients in the critical care ward of Manipal Hospitals in Hebbal, north Bengaluru. Leesa, 34, is currently on night shift, constantly monitoring a few patients just out of surgery and those suffering from critical conditions. The intensive care unit can be lonely for patients, who are away from their loved ones. It is well-trained nurses like Leesa who give them the much-needed comfort and care. Leesa, along with her colleagues, bathe the patients and feed them. They also ensure that the patients take their medicines on time.

Even after a nightlong shift, Leesa’s face lights up with a smile. It is a smile that masks her pain well. She lost her husband 11 months ago. Surendran succumbed to a heart attack after recovering from Covid-19. A doctor colleague told Leesa that it could have been a case of post-Covid complication. Leesa, like many other health care workers, kept her personal tragedy aside and continued to be in the frontline. During the two waves, she worked in Covid special wards. She witnessed too many deaths during the second wave, but was fortunate enough to not contract the virus.

With her husband gone, Leesa is the sole breadwinner of her family. Her shift done, she is eager to get back home to her son and daughter—Kevin Chris, 11, and Alyssia Zeneta, 5. While she is at work, her mother Chinnamma, 72, looks after the children. “My husband used to drop me and pick me up from the hospital,” says Leesa. “That was a great help, as it would reduce my travel time and stress.” Now she has to change buses to reach the hospital.

Once home, Leesa becomes a hands-on mother, cooking an omelette for her son and simultaneously teaching her daughter rhymes. She will catch a few winks before getting ready for another night shift. But Leesa has no complaints. She will continue to care with a smile.