Stanford doctors and engineers working overtime to help India

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Over the past few weeks, we've watched as a coronavirus surge in India has spun out into a full blown health crisis.

But quietly, behind the scenes, doctors, engineers and others here in the Bay Area have working non-stop to help. And while many have roots in India, their compassion goes far beyond their backgrounds.

RELATED: How you can help India during its COVID-19 crisis

Dr. Nidhi Rohatgi, M.D. is busy these days on her normal rounds at Stanford Hospital -- And if they are more exhausting than usual, it may be the result of a human crisis half a world away.

In the middle of the night, Dr. Rohatghi begins her second shift at home - using social media and remote connections to relay critical information to patients in her native India. People caught in the tragic COVID-19 surge that's left thousands of people dead in a 24 hour period.

"The healthcare system over there is very overwhelmed right now. And several of my family members and friends are physicians out there, who are just overwhelmed," says Dr. Rohatgi.

She says many of the patients are desperate for advice. Sometimes for basic things like taking aspirin or Tylenol, sometimes for more.

"Sometimes big questions like 'hey my oxygen levels have been under 90% for so many hours,' 'the hospital is eight hours away, should I go or stay at home?'" she explains.

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India's crematoriums and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by the devastating surge of infections tearing through the country with terrifying speed.

Filling the shortages of oxygen, ventilators, and other medical devices has become a life-and-death struggle. Enter Stanford bio-engineering professor Manu Prakash, Ph.D., whom we first met several years ago, when he was launching a world-wide research collaborative using folding microscopes. Now, he's contributing to an even more urgent virtual collaborative called India COVID SOS.

"It consists of 300 plus clinicians around the world, some with a footprint in India, engineers, academics, policy makers, logistics folks," he says.

It's also a burgeoning on-line strike force that's collecting everything from C-pap machines that can double as ventilators, to open source plans to build equipment.

RELATED: US to restrict travel from India over COVID as 1st American aid begins to arrive

While both have roots in India, they say the volunteer movement that's sweeping across Stanford and the Bay Area is about far more nationalism.

"This is going to very soon, with the number of variants that are now starting to be reported, we're going to be in this sense of a forever pandemic if we just let every country fend for itself," says Prakash.

Dr. Rohatgi is also hopeful that won't happen.

"I know that the world will do the right thing. Because they want to do the right thing. People want to do the right thing. We want to help," says says.

India COVID SOS is actively recruiting supporters and donations. This is the official link if you'd like to help.

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