Noor Shaik says that a phone call with her 83-year-old grandmother left her feeling heartbroken and helpless about the conditions in India. And the medical student at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia decided that she wanted to do something about it.
“Here I was, enjoying my life and my family in the United States, while over there, everyone was worried about going into lockdown,” she told The Lilly.
“In India, the spread of COVID-19 right now is so terrible. I just felt really sad.”
Since February, deaths have spiked and the transmission of the virus variants is at a high. There is a lack of vaccines, oxygen, and other medical supplies – and the country is recording grim records, including over 4,200 deaths in one day.
After learning of the worsening crisis in India, Shaik told her mother: “We have to do something.”
Shaik went to her medical student adviser, and told him about her desire to help her relatives — and others in India — who had no access to vaccines and PPE. Soon after, she was in a room with 900 pounds of donated supplies like masks, gowns, and medical equipment. All of this would soon be shipped to hospitals in and around Bangalore, a city of 8 million where Shaik’s grandmother, aunts, and uncles live.
It wouldn’t have been possible without Shaik’s adviser, Wayne Bond Lau, who contacted medical equipment suppliers in the Philadelphia area. When Shaik reached out to Lau, he told her he was more than willing to do whatever he could.
“We’re so lucky to have the vaccine here, and yet it’s appalling that we have so much that it’s being thrown away,” she said. “On the other side of the world, people are dying and trying to get a gasp of air.”
Dimerco Express, an export company in New York, offered to send the first shipment of supplies to Bangalore for free, and will charge a reduced rate for sending additional pallets, Shaik said.
She’s been sharing the latest through blog updates on the Breath for Humanity project, and she says she’s going to continue helping until she knows her grandmother — and others in Bangalore — are finally able to receive a vaccine. “To actually see my grandmother vaccinated and feel free to move around outside her home again — that is my ultimate goal and dream.”