North Texans organize for India as COVID-19 deaths skyrocket

Anurag Jain boarded a plane at DFW International Airport last month, unsure if he would see his mother again.

Unable to breathe, she was placed on a ventilator in a hospital in Chennai, India.

Jain arrived in Chennai in April, at the start of what would soon become the second wave of COVID-19 in his home country.

He was devastated by the scenes – crowded hospitals, lack of food and medical supplies, families separated by disease, fear and grief.

“I will say the situation is as dire if not more than what we are seeing in the news,” he said.

COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in India, creating a humanitarian crisis no one had predicted in January, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India had “saved humanity from a great catastrophe by effectively mastering the crown ”. Life began to pick up, as did participation in cricket matches, religious pilgrimages and political rallies for Modi’s Hindu Nationalist Party.

Four months later, cases and deaths exploded, the country vaccine deployment weakened and public anger and mistrust have grown. Crematoriums and cemeteries have been overwhelmed and loved ones often wait hours before performing the last rites for their loved ones.

New cases have started to decline, but Reuters reported on Monday that daily deaths have remained above 4,000, and experts said the data was unreliable due to a lack of testing in rural areas where the virus is spreading rapidly.

North Texans have tried to provide all the help they can get, and some are ready to come to the country if a family member contracts the disease.

Access Healthcare President Anurag Jain poses for a portrait at the Access Healthcare Dallas office on Monday, May 17, 2021. Jain traveled to India in April to visit his critically ill mother, who had contracted the disease. new coronavirus at the start of what was to come soon.  become the second wave of COVID-19 in its country of origin.  Since his return, Jain has worked with partners to send 3,200 oxygen concentrators to India and is organizing an expedition of 1,700 more.  “People around the world have been incredibly generous,” he said.
Access Healthcare President Anurag Jain poses for a portrait at the Access Healthcare Dallas office on Monday, May 17, 2021. Jain traveled to India in April to visit his critically ill mother, who had contracted the disease. new coronavirus at the start of what was to come soon. become the second wave of COVID-19 in its country of origin. Since his return, Jain has worked with partners to send 3,200 oxygen concentrators to India and is organizing an expedition of 1,700 more. “People around the world have been incredibly generous,” he said. “The human spirit comes to life at times like this.” (Lynda M. González / The Dallas Morning News)(Lynda M. González / photographer)

When Jain arrived in India, he estimated that the COVID-19 ward at his mother’s hospital made up about a tenth of the hospital beds.

Two weeks later, he said, it was halfway through the hospital.

Jain returned to the United States in late April and heard from family and friends that the entire hospital was now on COVID-19 ward.

Anecdotally, he said, the virus appeared to be more transmissible than before, with younger people falling ill as well.

“It was more and more difficult to explain,” he said. “Many reasonably prudent people have contracted the virus.”

Jain, who lives in Dallas, owns Access to health care, a company that provides healthcare outsourcing services, and Perot Jain, a venture capital firm with Ross Perot Jr. He also founded Get Shift Done, an initiative that has endowed food banks, schools and the pantries of unemployed hotel workers during the pandemic.

Anurag Jain, President of the North Texas Food Bank, is presented with Shiftsmart President Patrick Brandt at the North Texas Food Bank in Plano.

Since returning from India, he has contacted charities and potential donors, including Perot, who has made a substantial contribution.

He said former classmates in India started Oxygen for India, a non-profit organization working to deliver oxygen from warehouses to hospitals, which he and other D-FW donors support.

Together with partners, Jain has sent 3,200 oxygen concentrators to India and is organizing a shipment of 1,700 more.

“People around the world have been incredibly generous,” he said. “The human spirit comes to life at times like this.”

Jain’s mother survived and is expected to be discharged from the hospital soon. He said the time of his illness, before resources were so exhausted, probably saved his life.

“We are among the lucky ones,” he said.

Sri Preston Kulkarni, the Democratic candidate for a Congressional District in the Houston area, is among South Asian Americans in Texas on the ballot this year.  He faces Republican Troy Nehls, the Fort Bend County Sheriff.  ORG XMIT: MERd8b340f054dc289d8024effae193e

As India’s COVID-19 cases exploded, Ashok Mago and Neel Gonuguntla knew they had to act quickly.

Mago, the founding president of the American Chamber of Commerce in India DFW, and Gonuguntla, the organization’s president, reached out to everyone they could think of – individuals, businesses, nonprofits, community organizations – to solicit donations.

Almost immediately, donations poured in.

“It was truly a symphony of compassion,” said Gonuguntla, who lives in Irving. “That’s the best way I can describe it.”

The chamber foundation raised over $ 1 million, which it used to purchase around 115 oxygen ventilators, over 1,000 oxygen concentrators, and personal protective equipment.

Medical supplies have been dispatched to hospitals across India, the Indian Red Cross, and various government agencies.

Many companies, including logistics companies Perimeter Global Logistics and Big Logistics, offered their services free of charge. United Airlines has helped transport more than 300,000 pounds of medical supplies.

Mago, whose brothers, nieces and nephews still live in India, said many residents of the D-FW area are in frequent contact with friends and family in India.

Mago and Gonuguntla have said they will likely cancel their planned trips to the country later this year, as do many in the community.

Raising funds and sending supplies provided them with a way to help when so many people felt helpless, said Mago, who lives in Dallas.

“The situation in India is catastrophic,” he said. “But India and its people are resilient and will see better days. I hope and pray that things will improve in a few months.

Coppell resident Sridevi Potu typically visits her parents in India every year, but the plan was different for 2019 and 2020.

“In 2019, I didn’t go because we were planning to bring my parents here in the spring of 2020,” she said.

But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Potu has not seen his parents now for two years. They both tested positive for the virus this month, although they were recently vaccinated. She fears that a variant will infect patients too quickly.

“It progresses very quickly, this variant, and it affects the lungs very quickly,” said Potu. “The moment you realize it’s getting late and you need to get the treatment quickly, you can’t get it.”

She raises funds through her non-profit organization, the Svechha Foundation, which is run by volunteers.

“We are trying to raise funds to set up intensive care facilities in remote places,” she said.

Although stories about the severity of India’s COVID-19 crisis grab the headlines, Potu said she is also hearing a number of positive stories.

“There’s a lot of help coming through WhatsApp and these group messages,” she said. “Suppose you need oxygen, just send it to your group of friends.”

Coppell High School juniors Aarushi Jaiswal, left, and Veda Kanamarlapudi, read an Indian folk tale titled Sukhu and Dukhu via Zoom, to a bilingual elementary student at WH Wilson Elementary in Coppell on Monday April 19, 2021. Juniors at Coppell High School translate Indian children's stories into Spanish so that bilingual students can understand them.

Mahendar Rao is the vice president of the North Texas Indian Association, a Richardson nonprofit that connects people who have moved to the United States from India with resources around the D-FW area. .

Rao said many people he works with are on standby to help their families in India who have contracted the virus.

“As an Indian tradition, you have to be there with your parents,” he said. “It’s kind of integrated, etched into our body or our soul to support our family, our struggling parents.”

Rao, a resident of Frisco, said his mother and father contracted the virus in recent weeks. The family lives in Hyderabad, a city in the south of Telangana state.

When Rao’s brother stepped in to help, he also contracted the disease.

“I had planned to go there this weekend, but since my father is well since yesterday, and my mother is fine, I prefer not to go because I will put my family who are here in the States- United in danger, ”he said. .

The association collects funds to send to non-profit organizations on the ground in India, such as the Akshaya Patra Foundation.

Rao said the organization raised more than $ 100,000, “We have sent ventilators, oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dayakar Puskoor (left) and Abidali Neemuchwala, in their Irving office, launched Dallas Venture Capital in September.

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