They were born and raised in India. But two longtime Odessa physicians are proving their hearts are as big as Texas.
Doctors Sai Gundlapalli and Anand Reddy are spearheading what has become an international effort to raise funds and provide supplies to help India combat COVID-19 which is ravaging their native land.
“We were both born in India and still have many friends and family back home,” Gundlapalli said. “We got together and talked about what we could do to help.
“There’s a big need for oxygen there, so that’s how we got started.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in India have already died as a result of COVID-19, which has the world’s second-highest tally of infections — more than 400,000 currently, Gundlapalli and Reddy said.
India’s population of 1.45 billion people, coupled with a lack of healthcare resources, especially in rural areas has made efforts to get COVID under control a daunting task, Gundlapalli said.
The country is now experiencing their third wave of COVID cases, made even more concerning because more deadly, contagious strains are beginning to appear, the doctors said.
Initially, Gundlapalli, an anesthesiologist, and Reddy, a nephrologist, reached into their own pockets to donate funds to purchase thousands of dollars worth of oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators, a device used for delivering oxygen to people with breathing-related disorders.
“What’s fantastic is so many people have been interested in helping,” Reddy said. “We have hundreds of doctors offering help now.
“That’s something those in the profession do. In times of crisis, we tend to come together.”
Many physicians are providing cash donations to purchase supplies, Reddy and Gundlapalli said. Others are donating their time to consult via Zoom with doctors from India to offer ideas and possible solutions.
The doctors have also used their vast network to obtain donations from medical vendors and a major airline is transporting the donated supplies for free, Gundlapalli said.
It’s not the first time Reddy and Gundlapalli have collaborated. The longtime friends attended medical school together in India and have had their own practices in Odessa for more than 30 years.
“When you go through a pandemic, we can see something as simple as oxygen can be a big deal,” Reddy said. “We take it for granted sometimes in the U.S. But not everyone has the same resources as we do.”