Coming off a night shift, Ranasinghe sits down to tell Drawn to the City his journey from a tiny Sri Lankan village to Adelaide.
Ranasinghe grew up in a village called Hurigahamula in Sri Lanka, a place he says is covered in trees with plenty of birds. “It is a tiny tropical island, the teardrop of India,” Ranasinghe says. “There is so much natural beauty to boast about in Sri Lanka.”
After completing high school, Ranasinghe moved to Adelaide in 2014 where he enrolled in nursing at TAFE in Gilles Plains. “I was excited to move to another country for higher education,” he says, “but also a bit scared, moving alone to a land, English is not my first language and a place with different cultural values.
“I do call Adelaide home now. I have made a massive Adelaide family here,” Ranasinghe says, but he still gets nostalgic thinking of family and of Sri Lanka. “I miss Sri Lankan food a lot; I miss my bird walks and I miss thunderstorms. But here in Adelaide there is still so much to explore, so much to learn.”
Once he completed his TAFE course, Ranasinghe went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of South Australia. Nursing has been a long-term goal. “Growing up, I spent quite a lot of time in the cancer hospital with family members who weren’t well. That made me realise that sick people need the care of another human being rather than just a chemical trying to fix their problem.”
Ranasinghe lived in Adelaide’s CBD while completing his higher education. “[It was] very convenient living in the heart of the city – university in the east end and work in the south end. A pub a few steps away for a stressful study night (that was pretty much every night) where I might have grabbed a gin or two.”
At university, Ranasinghe specialised in oncology and palliative care, while also working for years in a disability 2018 residential care facility in Wayville. At this centre, Ranasinghe worked with young people who needed full-time attention. Aiding people his own age with disabilities or terminal illnesses reinforced the importance of his work.
“Over this time, the carers and the residents became more like family even though we had our own ups and downs at work. I learnt to be more patient and more empathetic. Also, I have witnessed how an incurable disease can affect a person’s life and what matters to them and what I can do as a carer or nurse. What I learnt in such a place is something that I can’t explain in one sentence; learning never ends.”
Today, Ranasinghe works in a number of metropolitan hospitals and aged-care centres across the city. And he wishes (as surely many nurses do) that he had “a hundred pairs of hands and at least three eyes”. For him, the most important tools of his trade are “patience, empathy and self-care”.
When he is not busy making his rounds, Ranasinghe looks to nature for relaxation and explores his passion for photography. “I have spent most of my life running behind little creatures, and identify myself as a bird watcher. So I love taking photos of birds and every little thing that digs up my curiosity.”
Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator