Many of the several dozen Indian Americans suffering from COVID-19 are doctors looking for blood plasma, said Santhosh Shankarnarayan, adding that the phone doesn’t stop ringing.
“Since morning I have got calls from New Jersey, New York, California, Chicago, from people asking for help and donors,” Shankarnarayana told indica in a phone interview.
Based in Monroe, New Jersey, Shankarnarayan said that since morning they were looking for donors for Dr. Priya Khanna, 43, a New Jersey-based nephrologist suffering from COVID-19 who has been hospitalized for eight days and is in critical condition urgently needing blood plasma to fight the virus.
Shankarnarayan said they found a few donors but are still trying to process it, and Dr. Khanna is still in ICU, admitted in Clara Maass Medical Center-RWJBH in Belleville, New Jersey.
Her father, Dr. Satyendra Khanna, 78, a general surgeon, also contracted the virus. Both the father and daughter are in critical condition in the intensive care unit in the same hospital, according to Shankarnarayan.
“We are still looking for donors,” said Shankarnarayan.
He said it’s difficult finding people to help as well. “The hospitals and the doctors look exhausted and everyone seems running here and there.”
“The situation looks pathetic. I never imaged this in America,” said Shankarnarayan, who is an IT professional and has been volunteering since the coronavirus crisis started, by helping people in the area buy groceries and finding donors.
More than 40 percent of COVID-19 patients in New Jersey hospitals are Indians, though many have been recovering, Shankarnarayan said.
He said they have a WhatsApp group for alerts about who is in need.
When asked if he is scared working like a frontliner approaching doctors and people infected, he said his wife gets worried but “I am not.”
“We have two children, so she gets worried,” he said.
“We know anyone that was COVID-19 positive and symptom-free for two weeks is an eligible donor, and if willing to donate, and the surprising part is many patients are coming forward to help. They are not just Indian but American as well.”
According to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Dr. Ajay Lodha, past president of the organization, is also sick along with four AAPI doctors.
The AAPI has set up a donor registry of potential donors who have been tested positive for the novel coronavirus, recovered from the virus, subsequently have been tested negative and meet the criteria to donate plasma, according to Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, of the AAPI COVID plasma donor task force.
Chakrabarty said potential donors can get more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to reports, over a dozen Indian nationals have died from the COVID-19 virus. Just the past week four Indian nationals died according to a Malayalee diaspora group.
The Federation of Kerala Associations in North America (FOKANA) confirmed the deaths of three Indian nationals as a result of coronavirus – Thankachan Enchenattu, 51, Abraham Samuel, 45, and Shawn Abraham, 21. In addition, Aleyamma Kuriakose, 65, died in New York as a result of COVID-19 an infection
One Indian national reportedly died in Florida of COVID-19. Four of the victims are said to be taxi drivers in New York City and one in California.
In the US, New York state has emerged as an epicenter of the coronavirus with more than 10,000 deaths and over 160,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, while in New Jersey, more than 1,700 have died and over 51,000 have been infected with the deadly virus.
Scores of Indian Americans have tested positive with the novel coronavirus, according to multiple news reports, community organizations and diaspora leaders across the US, currently the global epicenter of the deadly disease.
No official count of Indian Americans infected with the coronavirus has been released, but information available on various private social media groups indicates that a significant number of them are in New York and New Jersey.
Community leaders say they have been receiving daily reports of more people testing positive.
Indian American journalist Brahm Kuchibhotla, who was a former contributor to United News of India news agency, died in a New York hospital early this week.
In Northern California, an Indian family too was not spared of the monster COVID-19 virus, which took the life of a 70-year old man, whose son was also admitted to the hospital. According to the Shantharam Gummaraju, board member and president of Tri-Valley Kannada Sangha, the son was hospitalized but has returned home safely.
In Lake Tahoe, an Indian student tested positive for the virus last week but is doing fine, according to the Indian Consulate in San Francisco.
Several community leaders in the New York City area and in the areas surrounding Washington, D.C., in Maryland and Virginia have tested positive.
The Indian Embassy and Consulates in the US have been working with local authorities and Indian American organizations helping Indian nationals and students affected by COVID-19.
Because of the strict travel restrictions and regulations to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, local city officials have been performing the last rites of the deceased and in many cases are not allowing even their immediate family members to attend their cremations, officials said.
Photo of Priya Khanna courtesy of zocdoc.com