How Local Residents are Affected by India’s COVID-19 Crisis

“We have to take it one day at a time, that’s all we can do,” said Aurora resident Sofia Akhter.

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases in India, hospitals reaching capacity, and a shortage of oxygen at hospitals, some local residents are worried about their own families back home and have suffered losses.

Local Residents Affected

Since April, Akhter has had four deaths in her family due to them testing positive for COVID-19 in India.

One of her aunts was on a ventilator at the hospital, then died a week later. That same day, Akhter received the news her mother and another aunt also tested positive.

“After that every two days we were getting [a] call for the death [of someone],” said Akhter. “One of the aunts was asked to leave the hospital because they were out of oxygen.”

On the same day Akhter got the news of her grandmother’s passing, she and her siblings were trying to find a hospital that could take both her parents who both tested positive for COVID-19.

Sofia on a video call with her father who is in the ICU in India

“We were going to put our parents in the hospital that day, trying to figure out how to. So when we got the call for my grandma of course I cried, but then my brother is like ‘that happened, let’s focus on the next [person and] what to do,'” said Akhter. “So I feel like we never got the time to mourn any of the deaths. Then the third death happened and I would say by that time we got numb.”

Her mother has now been discharged from the hospital, but her father is in the ICU.

“The worst part for me and my siblings was to put a smiling and happy face on the video call we would do with my dad when he moved to [the] ICU,” said Akhter.

Naperville resident Ashfaq Syed has also lost family members in his hometown of Hyderabad, India. His uncle and aunt both tested positive and died one day apart from each other. He’s also lost two cousins.

“The situation in India is beyond heartbreaking,” said Syed. “It is very depressing. Everyday when I see my mobile, I’m a little scared now to see my messages from India.”

He checks in everyday with family members, doctors, and organizations like SEED and Helping Hand Foundation who are on the grounds.

“They have been saying some hospitals have put up a note that we cannot take patients and patients are waiting in the parking lots, patients are waiting on the steps to get into the hospital but they are dying there in the parking lot or in the cars because they’re not able to get oxygen,” said Syed.

photo courtesy: Helping Hand Foundation

Trying to Help

Because Syed has those connections, he said people in the Naperville and Chicago area reach out to him when they’re trying to find a hospital bed for their family member. SEED and Helping Hand Foundation are taking donations.

The Mall of India in Naperville has hosted multiple vaccination clinics in the community. While they aren’t able to provide that in India since vaccines are controlled by the government, they’re finding another critical way to help.

“We already shipped 200 oxygen concentrators in partnership with ITServe Alliance and 200 more oxygen concentrators in partnership with India Hub,” said co-owner of Naperville’s Mall of India, Vinoz Chanamolu. “And we’re working on shipping 1,300 more oxygen concentrators next week with India Hub.”

The oxygen concentrators will be given to hospitals, Red Cross, and Mother Theresa Foundation. ITServe Alliance is taking donations to buy more.

As of April 30, there are close to 402,000 new COVID-19 cases in India, with a total of 19.2 million cases in the country.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.

photo courtesy: Helping Hand Foundation

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