Anup Katyal, an intensive care physician in Missouri, was finally getting a break from treating hundreds of covid-19 patients at the hospital where he works. Then, catastrophe descended on India, his homeland.
Each day since, he has awakened to a flurry of messages from 20 relatives, friends and fellow doctors in India seeking medical advice.
And then, before bed, he has hopped on Zoom with a family in New Delhi who contracted the virus and turned to a physician 7,700 miles away because local doctors turned off their phones and shuttered their offices.
Many newly infected Indians are struggling to find medical care as urban hospitals are stretched to their limits and bare-bones health systems struggle in rural areas and villages. Misinformation and misguided claims about purported cures, such as lemon drops, have proliferated as terrified citizens fend for themselves.
In recent weeks, the St. Louis ICU where Katyal practices has treated fewer than 10 covid patients a day. “The moment we thought there was a respite here from my ICU standpoint, it’s unbearable now to see what’s going on in India.”
He stumbled upon a Facebook post advertising a free telehealth platform organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin to connect volunteer doctors to patients with mild to moderate coronavirus cases abroad. His son Aditya Katyal, an undergraduate premedical student, joins to help him use the technology and double-check medical facts during these sessions.