No oximeters? These youngsters are here to help

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A group of youngsters have started an initiative, requesting Goans to donate or lend their oximeters to the ones who need it. NT KURIOCITY gets details

A couple of weeks ago, as the state reeled under a spike in COVID cases, another problem emerged in the form of shortage of pulse oximeters. It was then that a team of youngsters (Saloni Pai Raikar, Devansh Cholera, Isha Kher and Heramb Naik) started an initiative of collecting oximeters from those who no longer needed these, in order to help others in need.

An oximeter is an essential device especially for COVID patients as it measures the oxygen saturation. Keeping a check on oxygen levels is essential as it can help prevent cases of happy hypoxia, where a person may not present with any physical symptoms even though oxygen levels are low in the blood which in turn can lead to further health complications, says Raikar.

However, owing to the shortage in the state, health centres stopped supplying these to patients. And Kher, who has her own startup called brizz where users can get their medicines home delivered from local pharmacies was inundated with requests for these but could not fulfil many owing to oximeters either being in short supply or being too expensive for people. At times, requests were also coming in from unserviceable locations.

The team then first began sourcing oximeters for those who needed it by asking their friends and family if they had an extra one that they could lend or donate to people. “Soon enough we realised that all the people who received oximeters around 15-20 days ago may not need them anymore and so we created a Google Form with a message for these people to donate the oximeters they received for free which they don’t need anymore,” says Kher.

On the first day they got about 10 requests including people who wanted to donate and who needed oximeters and slowly it just kept growing. “I think within five days we had about 100 responses in total. Some of them could not find it in stock and others could not afford oximeters. The prices of oximeter have shot drastically. It used to be less than `1000 when the pandemic began but now, I have heard pharmacies selling it for as high as `4000,” says Raikar.

The form also included an option where people can deliver the oximeters to those who needed it themselves, or vice versa. But owing to the COVID situation, says Naik, many a times the deliveries are handled by ground delivery volunteers. “One person had even delivered an oximeter to Netravali, which is one of the remote areas in Goa,” says Naik.

So far, they have managed to help about 150-160 people. In addition to that they gave 34 oximeters to Goa Medical College, Bambolim and about 15 to the South Goa District Hospital. Associations and companies like Tushti (70 oximeters), Active Pixel (25), Rotary Club of Miramar (25) have also donated oximeters to the group.

And Raikar says that it is great to see people selflessly coming forward to donate the oximeters. “The main credit goes to these people and the ground volunteers who are very prompt in delivering these oximeters. They do it anytime of the day,” she says.

In fact, says Naik, during the second wave of COVID-19, it has been the people who helped each other rather than the government reaching them. “I salute this spirit but this has to continue. Please keep a check on your neighbours, friends and relatives and if they develop symptoms ask them to go and get checked,” says Naik adding that as the third wave approaches it is important to keep one’s morale high in order to overcome the virus.

The team now also have an app (made by Cholera and Erisha Ferrao, student of Electronics and Telecommunication, Goa Engineering College, Farmagudi) for internal use through which they monitor each and every query that comes to them. And they plan to continue till whenever it is needed. However, currently, Raikar says, it feels like the situation is getting better. “We don’t have more than three-four requests per day. And PHCs (Primary Health Centres) are stocking up too. Prices of oximeters are also decreasing.”(RK)