The Covid calamity in India has sick people treating the sick: “ Alone to save my family ”
NEW DELHI – Days before Nikita Goel planned to get married, she and five members of her family tested positive for the coronavirus, including her parents and 86-year-old grandfather. “I felt like a roof had fallen,” she says.
Her father and grandfather quickly fought for every breath, and Ms Goel, suffering from fever and coughing fits, was sent to seek help from a crumbling health system around her. ‘it. “I suddenly felt that I was left alone in the world, alone to save my family,” said Ms. Goel, 28.
The wave of Covid-19 that swept through India hit hard and suddenly, engulfing families and entire neighborhoods and, in many cases, leaving the sick to care for the sickest. Those who are still healthy are at risk of infection in crowded pharmacies, clinics and hospitals while trying to find medicine and medical help for loved ones.
Ms Goel and her family live in Bareilly, a city in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, which has among the highest number of Covid-19 cases of any state in India. The country has a 1.9% vaccination rate and reported more than 3,600 deaths and 390,000 new cases on Sunday, figures that public health experts say likely understates the toll as so many people die. outside of overcrowded hospitals.
After fending off an outbreak of the virus last year, India was unprepared for the scale of the current outbreak, especially in states like Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of 237 million. Doctors say beds are full, staff and oxygen are scarce, and drugs to treat Covid-19 are not available. The state government acknowledged that its hospitals were at maximum capacity and that Covid-19 cases among medical staff had hampered efforts to treat the sick, but refuted reports of oxygen and oxygen shortages. undercoverage of deaths.
Ms Goel made dozens of calls and visited 11 hospitals in Bareilly over two days while searching for a bed for her grandfather, Jagdish Saran Vaish. She has seen hospital corridors filled with patients, sometimes two per bed, she says. Families were camping in hopes of getting a loved one admitted, and the waiting rooms were so crowded that there was little room to stand.
“Sometimes I felt like I would fall,” she says.
The best Mrs. Goel could do was get a nebulizer from the hospital; the device allows users to inhale drugs in a fog. Another gave him a place on the hospital waiting list: # 52.
She decided to try and recreate an intensive care unit in the family’s small apartment. His first job was to get an oxygen tank. She offered to pay four times the regular price to have one delivered. Before his arrival, she said, the oxygen levels in his grandfather’s blood dropped drastically and he passed out.
A relative through a connection got a hospital bed for him. Tests revealed damage to his lungs and doctors put him on oxygen. At home, Ms Goel’s father, Vijay Kumar Goel, 58, was in danger. Her oxygen levels were also dropping, and the same relative found her a bed in another hospital.
Ms Goel transported her father to hospital early, but no bed was ready. They waited for hours in the car. When Mr. Goel could not catch his breath, she yelled for an attendant to take a stretcher and move him inside. A doctor came to put him on oxygen. Mr. Goel was admitted this afternoon.
Shortly after, Ms Goel received a call from the hospital where her grandfather was being treated. They asked him to move him to another hospital. “They said he was alone and depressed,” she said.
On April 22, Ms Goel’s planned wedding day, she transferred her grandfather to the hospital where her father was staying. “He looked happy and smiled at me a few times,” she said.
Dr Dinesh Mehta, the doctor responsible for Covid-19 patients at Khushlok Hospital, where Ms Goel’s father and grandfather were treated, said oxygen supplies were insufficient. When the hospital is short, he said, the most seriously ill take priority.
A shortage of hospital beds means there is a long waiting list. “We feel helpless when we have to say no to patients,” said Dr Mehta.
A CT scan at Khushlok hospital showed 90 percent of her grandfather’s lungs were damaged, Ms Goel said. Two days later, the hospital called her to tell her that he had passed away.
Her grandfather was kind and humble, she says. He could read palms and never charged anyone for it. She remembered then that she was a child, holding out her small palm to him to learn what the future held.
“He said, ‘You will have a lot of money, you will be famous and a prince will take you to his palace,” she said.
The next day, doctors said Ms. Goel’s father’s oxygen levels were dropping. He needed tocilizumab, an immunosuppressant used to treat Covid-19, doctors said. Due to its rarity, the family should try to find it on their own.
Ms. Goel called everyone she knew. Her cousin contacted the Medicines Inspector, a local government employee who oversees the supply of medicines and vaccines. He said he couldn’t get it right away.
Ms Goel sent a desperate message on WhatsApp: “Please help my father. Lungs damaged due to Covid infection. Urgently needed tocilizumab injection. Please call or message. “
His father had run a supermarket in Bareilly before he was forced to close in last year’s lockdown. Then he sold the store to an acquaintance. “He was self-taught, a very confident person,” Ms. Goel said. “He taught us to never give up in life.”
He died a few days later and Ms. Goel blamed herself. “I could have done more to save him,” she said.
—Niharika Mandhana contributed to this article.
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