PROVIDENCE — About a week and a half ago, Dr. Jinen Thakkar was at Kent Hospital in Warwick, visiting a patient, when he ran into Dr. Laura Forman, with whom he’d worked at the COVID-19 field hospital in Cranston.
They got to talk about the crisis situation in India, where Thakkar was born and raised. And they wondered what they could do to help.
They found a way, and it’s a big one: They’re working to fill a cargo plane with medical supplies to send to India.
“Let’s get this done soon,” Thakkar said Monday. “Time is of the essence.”
Thakkar, a hospitalist, moved to the United States for his residency and now lives in Lincoln, Rhode Island, but is originally from Mumbai. He has had immediate family members get sick and extended family members die from COVID-19, he said. His story is not unique: On Monday, India reported about 366,000 new coronavirus infections, with about 4,000 deaths daily, according to reports. Experts say the toll is probably far greater.
“Those numbers are mind-boggling,” Thakkar said.
One problem in India is a lack of supplies, particularly oxygen.
After their conversation a week and a half ago, Thakkar and Forman asked for help from the person who works in supply chain management, Brad Morisseau, and also went to Care New England president and CEO Dr. James Fanale. They supported the efforts. Care New England itself is identifying supplies that it can donate. It’s also setting up a donation portal for people to give money or for institutions to donate supplies.
They’re looking for monetary donations or for ventilators, oxygen cylinders, compressors, concentrators or personal protective equipment. Donations through the Kent Foundation are tax-deductible, according to Care New England. Thakkar said people could email him personally with questions about making a gift: email@example.com.
Against long odds, they’ve found a way to get it over there, too.
Forman’s partner’s cousin works for an airline, and was able to connect them with a vice president who has agreed to arrange for the cargo flight, Forman said. (Since they haven’t yet formalized everything, Forman, who is the chief of emergency medicine at Kent Hospital, declined to identify the airline just yet.) Thakkar, meanwhile, is working with the World Health Organization to accept the supplies once they get there.
The single plane can hold five semi-trucks’ worth of supplies. Now they need to fill it. They’re hoping to get this massive undertaking done within about two weeks.
Thakkar and Forman both worked in the field hospital on Sockanosset Cross Road in Cranston, so they have seen the virus at its worst in Rhode Island. That field hospital is now closed, but for a time, Rhode Island had the highest measured per-capita infection rate in the world.
Now, the burden is easing here, but unrelenting in India.
“There are times when I think, there’s so much need over there, and it’s so overwhelming to think about the scope of this problem in India,” Forman said. “And then I think, even if we save one life, it’s worth it. And I think we’re going to save a lot more than one life.”
Brian Amaral can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.