Livia Lazarus is responsible for standards at a private hospital.
Livia Lazarus is responsible for standards at a private hospital.

World Nursing Day: Being brave comes with the territory for this 25-year veteran

By Nelandri Narianan Time of article published May 12, 2020

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Johannesburg - A nurse for 25 years, Livia Lazarus has helped bring many lives into the world and sadly, she has seen off more hopelessly sick souls than she would have liked. 

Being brave for their loved ones comes with the harsh territory.

Yet, when faced with her own mortality, amid the raging coronavirus pandemic, this brave mother was suddenly terrified. 

“I’m a single mom, divorced for seven years. I’m the only person my three children have, I can’t die!”

These frantic thoughts raged through Livia’s mind when she recently showed signs of being infected by the coronavirus.

Waiting for the test results was her greatest agony yet, said the Durban nursing standard’s manager.

“I was scared, like really scared. Those were a long two days. 

"Dying becomes different when you’re everything to your children.

“I had many symptoms and I tried hard to keep away from my two young daughters.

“But how? Kayleigh is 15 and Tiana just 13.

“Normally, when I come home, they run to me, hug me, hello mommy, so excited.

“Suddenly, I was sitting far away, telling them to stay away from me, pushing them away, it was so hard.”

Then came the results.


Only when Livia’s fevered mind cleared did she remember a flu jab she had taken. Her symptoms may have been a consequence of that.

Off the couch … and back she headed to the frontline.

There was much to be done. The global coronavirus pandemic was unrelenting.

As nursing standard’s manager, Livia, 48, is responsible for standards at a private hospital, a very senior position that sees her interacting with staff, patients and their families.

She also manages infection prevention and control at the hospital.

“As you imagine in a time like this, everything has to be done by the book. Added PPEs, added protection. We’ve always had infection prevention precautions in place but with Co-vid 19 there are so many extra protocols and principles that have been put in place. They are so strict. It is a burden, but we work as a team.”

As the 2IC to the matron, Livia has to carefully manage her 9-hour day to get all her tasks done.

Already physically exhausted, Covid-19 has battered her emotionally.

“I love being a nurse. I love my patients and I love interacting with their families. Now everyone is so stressed and angry. Fathers can’t go into the birthing room with their pregnant wives, families can’t visit loved ones, some patients are old and don’t understand, people are angry we are turning them away from admissions - not realising that we are actually trying to save their lives…

“It’s stressful. We’re trying our best. We have to protect staff, patients, families, cleaners, everyone.

“Fear is a terrible thing. Everyone is so scared. 

“I go out every day to protect other lives, I have children who need protecting, who only have me … it’s so scary, but it’s what I love, and what I do.”

With her whirlwind life, Livia smirks when asked about things such as grocery shopping.

“Those things can only be done on one Saturday a month. 

“My children are very understanding. I’ve raised good kids. They are really loving, caring. I don’t have a helper. They have no option but to clean the house, do the washing, make their own meals when I’m at work.”

Livia attributes her strength and victory against tough odds in life to her faith.

“We’re a family that starts the day with prayer and ends it with prayer. Every night we pray together for the sick, the victims of Covid-19, those who are suffering.

“A family that prays together, stays together.”

 * This article was first published in IOL Lifestyle's special Mother's Day digital magazine. Get it free here.

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