Several Indian American doctors have been infected by the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus while either treating patients or working on the frontlines, says the president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI).
One of the well-known personalities of AAPI, president Dr. Ajay Lodha, was lucky to get the blood-plasma treatment on time and is doing well. Lodha said he cannot disclose, but he is fine and there are many people still on the ventilators and many still waiting for the blood plasma from survivors.
“So many are still suffering,” Dr. Suresh Reddy told indica. They have been suffering for the past 10 days.”
Reddy, a Neuro-Interventional Radiologist by profession and the 36th AAPI president, seeing the urgent need for blood plasma said response is good and many potential donors are coming forward.
“I think that is going to be the treatment to cure COVID-19 patients,” said Reddy, adding “There are no medicines, and everything has hidden risk. This is the actual treatment of dealing with antibodies.”
Referring further to the use of blood plasma, he said they are working with the American Red Cross and the Mayo Clinic with 15 hospitals following the effort.
AAPI has set up a web portal where potential donors can register — https://www.aapiusa.org/covid-19/aapi-plasma-registry/ — or get more information by emailing email@example.com.
“We want every hospital should have guidelines and one protocol in accepting blood plasma and also asking the website to be user uniform friendly. And even the website form is not helping much, and there are so many patients. So, we are trying to help them and help more patients,” he said.
The AAPI has asked President Trump, in a letter, to enhance the existing national registry of COVID-19 recovered patients to further the drive for their convalescent plasma, support the creation of a supply chain and implementation process in the early treatment of COVID-19 patients. In addition, the organization has offered Trump and governors help from its member Indian doctors and others in establishing more plasma centers.
“We know the American Red Cross has been helping, but we would like to do more,” Reddy said. “Given the huge growing demand, the Red Cross is not able to deal with the volume.”
When asked what the challenge is, Reddy said the guidelines.
“Once you bring in the recovered patient (donor), you have to screen the patient, and you have to keep confidentiality and make sure it’s compatible with the type of blood required,” he said.
Sharing further the issues, he said again. “There are guidelines that once you test positive of COVID-19, you have to wait 21 to 28 days before you donate ‘convalescent serum’ found in the blood plasma, and have tested negative after recovered from COVID-19. We have to make sure the person donating is not positive at the time. There are certain criteria and they have to do a lot of work before they can approve. So, we are trying to make it faster by helping.”
When asked some professionals posted online that some patients 14 days after recovery would be acceptable donors, he said “Then you have to make sure he has been tested twice. Every hospital has their own protocol. There is some overlap. Basically, we believe four weeks is safer.
Since there is no medicine yet, and the way the numbers are increasing, the AAPI has created a committee and more than 20 doctors are working on the plasma effort and with the Red Cross.
“We don’t want to duplicate the service, but we are just helping, with whatever information they want to facilitate, and acting as a liaison,” Reddy said. “Frankly many even don’t know how to approach Red Cross and how to do anything because the donors are not doctors.”
He said the AAPI got into this in the first week of March, and it’s a good challenge, and this is what doctors have been trained for. “This is what our passion is and life goal is.”
“This is a world war kind of situation, where doctors become a soldier, risking our own life,” he said.
Asked if he could see this coming, he said, “We never thought this is going to be this bad.”
Sharing the way coronavirus has engulfed the country, he said, “We thought China might not be able to handle, but America has all the technology and is equipped. We have the best care in the world. and so we will be able to handle it. But seems this is too strong for us,”
“We did not realize it would be this strong. And even doctors are not trained to deal with this kind of pandemic and its dangers,” he said. “There are a few medicines being tested, like hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that might help, but still nobody knows the exact reason, and the preliminary studies are coming but again no one knows. It’s still hit and miss.”