But as the avalanche of deaths and Covid-19 cases continue to cripple the healthcare system in Wave 2, doctors are moving beyond just helping family and friends. Some of them are now spending the night, when it is daylight in India, counseling other coronavirus patients and raising funds for medical supplies.
“I didn’t have to pay for my five years of medical training in India except for student union fees. So we all feel like we owe it to India. Some poor farmers had to pay taxes so that we could go to free medical school. I always felt I owed something in return… and I think most of them see it that way, ”said Dr. Kalpalatha Guntupalli of Baylor College of Medicine.
India recently reported more than 400,000 cases of Covid-19 per day and at least 4,000 deaths. And with oxygen, medical necessities and vaccines in short supply, the Indian government’s chief scientific adviser, K. VijayRaghavan, warns that a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is “inevitable” in India.
“A phase three is inevitable, given the higher levels of the virus circulating, but it is not known at what timescale this phase three will occur,” VijayRaghavan said at a press conference, asking authorities to prepare for new waves.
Help friends and family
The younger brother of Dr Prasad Garimella, 48, has died of coronavirus in India. Emotional in speaking of himself, Garimella said his brother was the anchor of the whole family, and said other family members were also sick with Covid-19. And although he was sitting away from them in Georgia, he stepped in to help them by counseling them over the phone.
“In fact, I take care of this on a daily basis and I have a standard format that I created. So depending on what stage or phase they’re in, I can give them the right advice, ”he said.
A pulmonologist with the Gwinnett Pulmonary Group, Garimella specializes in the treatment of patients with lung problems. For the patients he helps in India, he asks them to complete a simple template that includes basic information such as vital signs, oxygen symptoms, CT scans, lab results, and sub-health issues. underlying, which they send to him via WhatsApp.
But it’s not just his friends and family that he deals with. He and other doctors are working together to try to help any Covid-19 patient in India who seeks help.
Dr Sreeni Gangasani’s family, including his parents and brother in India, all contracted Covid-19, but he was able to help them through Whatsapp and video calls so they could manage their symptoms at home and not do not have to go to the hospital. He says that’s when he decided, “Why not help more people just by using our resources here?” ”
President and co-founder of eGlobalDoctors, Gangasani was building the for-profit medical platform offering telehealth consultations. He was planning to launch the platform, which was still in beta testing, later this summer when the alarming outbreak of Covid-19 began to sweep India.
It was at this point that he and other doctors such as Garimella decided to provide free medical advice to Indian patients with Covid-19 through the website, in partnership with the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) and the non-profit organization Sewa International to provide this service. .
Flooded with Covid-19 patients
To obtain medical advice, coronavirus patients in India must complete an online form, after which they are matched by volunteers via Zoom to a doctor in the United States. Patients can also select their preferred language and are matched with a physician accordingly. Volunteers also try to have the patient see the same doctor when they return for follow-up visits.
Doctors typically begin counseling patients around 8:30 p.m. ET after they return from their regular jobs. Due to the time difference between the United States and India, doctors are joined overnight by others from the Central and Pacific time zones, running the clinic until about 1:30 a.m. ET. Doctors say the clinic’s aim is to ease the burden on emergency rooms in India.
They started only a week ago, but have already been inundated with calls from hundreds of Covid-19 patients from India.
“Our objective is twofold. The first is to allow the doctors in India who have been working really so hard for so many months to take a break. The second goal is to identify sick patients among non-sick patients, ”Gangasani said. He said many patients are anxious because they are isolated and when they have mild symptoms they rush to the hospital.
“So if you can identify that they have mild symptoms and can stay home and take Tylenol, you tell them to do it,” he said. He then advises them on other serious symptoms to watch out for and to go to the hospital if necessary.
Gangasani said that, on average, around 200 people complete the online form every day, but around 100 show up to speak with the doctor. He said all the doctors and volunteers are volunteering for the crisis in India.
Donations are pouring in
Dr Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, chairman of AAPI, said they plan to send more oxygen concentrators, ventilators, remdesivir and personal protective equipment to India. He said donations poured in after he appealed for help and raised a few million dollars in less than two weeks.
Jonnalagadda added that the oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies they send to India are being distributed with the help of Sewa International.
“It’s not just the money, but how we can convert it into lives is the most important thing. So if the equipment is what they need, you have to convert that money into lifesaving equipment, ”Garimella said. He added that the initial goal was $ 50,000; they reached that amount in just a few hours.
Dr Guntapalli said at least 15 people from her extended family contracted Covid-19 in India and she provides medical advice to family and friends every day. “Things are getting closer to home in this second wave,” she said.
She added that oxygen concentrators would help one person at a time, so she advises hospitals to add oxygen generating plants.
“I’m pretty sure it’s not over yet. So I think that oxygen production plants in hospitals would be a more or less permanent solution that can last for many years. And there are no transport problems. So I think we have to think both. in the short term, which is what they need now, and sort of a semi-permanent solution as well, ”she said.
But all the doctors say they hope things will improve soon in India.
“Hopefully it won’t last too long. Hopefully in one to two months India will recover enough for doctors to take care of their own patients. So during this time, I think we want to do whatever we can, ”Gangasani said.
If you want to help those suffering in India during the Covid-19 crisis, go to cnn.com/impact to find ways to help.