EXCLUSIVE: 2 Odessa doctors send oxygen to India amid devastating COVID-19 outbreak

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ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) – Oxygen is perhaps the most important resource being shipped now to India. Two local doctors are helping ship it.

Dr. Sai Gundlapalli and Dr. Anand Reddy are practicing medicine in Odessa full time. They are just two doctors of several in West Texas who are helping ship oxygen concentrators overseas amid a devastating Coronavirus surge in India.

Oxygen concentrators are not easily accessible to Coronavirus patients in rural parts of the country.

“The hospitals don’t have enough oxygen for this sudden surge in cases,” said Dr. Gundlapalli.

“The oxygen concentrators could save a lot of lives,” said Dr. Reddy. “We did not wait for the fundraising. We said, each one of us will contribute a certain number and buy as many (oxygen concentrators) as available on that day.”

So, the two medical professionals brainstormed with colleagues from their medical school, Bangalore Medical College, to find the best way to send oxygen concentrators to India. They ended up sending 400 orders to India.

With the help of volunteers on the ground in India from the nonprofit “Project Smile,” and the US-India Chamber of Commerce in Dallas and Fort Worth, at least a thousand oxygen concentrators have now been shipped. Ravi Shakamuri of Starcare, Neel Gonuguntla of USICOC, Dr. Sujatha, Dr. Ravi Vemuru, and Ms. Aruna have been instrumental in this effort, too, according to Dr. Gundlapalli.

“It’s just amazing to see how many people come forward when there is a catastrophe, a human catastrophe,” said Dr. Reddy.

COVID-19 has recently ravaged India, which is now called the epicenter of the pandemic. Nearly 140,000 people have died from the virus since a major surge in mid-April. About 300,000 have lost their lives since last year.

Dr. Gundlapalli and Dr. Reddy say the virus has overwhelmed India’s health care system. Hospitals are in short supply of vital equipment and a number of families are desperate for oxygen.

“That’s where these oxygen concentrators play a role,” said Dr. Gundlapalli. “They can create new beds to take care of these patients and provide supplemental oxygen.”

This campaign to ship supplies overseas is a major coordinated effort. I’m told United Airlines and Qatar Airways have carried the medical resources free of charge.

“Our target is to send this to areas where there are not enough resources, number one… Number two, for the people who cannot afford the private setting where they have to spend a lot of money,” said Dr. Reddy.

The end game is simple: save lives.

Dr. Gundlapalli and Dr. Reddy shared some photos with me. They show crates full of concentrators being loaded onto cargo planes.

Both doctors say the campaign is getting real time results because their colleagues on the ground in India are sharing constant updates.

The effort to fight the Coronavirus overseas is very much personal, too.

“The worst part about all of this is I know friends in West Texas who could not go back to India, who lost their very close family members, due to Covid after travel restrictions,” Dr. Reddy said.

“Personally, I have lost family members to the Coronavirus, near and dear ones in the immediate family… We really know how hard it is for families to deal with it,” Dr. Gundlapalli said. “So, this is our small way to help with that effort, that our friends are doing back home.”

For more ways to help the cause, you can contribute directly to the GoFundMe campaign, BMC Covid Relief Fund – Oxygen for India, here.

All the collected funds will be used to buy oxygen concentrators and emergency medical equipment.

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