Devendra Kumar Rai, an insurance executive in Jharkhand, a central Indian state, got an urgent call from his friend Rajan Kumar Singh on the night of 25 April. Mr Singh, who was suffering from Covid-19, told him that his oxygen cylinder has limited capacity left and he is unable to get it refilled.
Over the past few weeks, the health infrastructure in Delhi and the neighbouring towns of Noida, Gurugram and Faridabad has been under immense pressure due to lack of beds in the hospital, lack of oxygen cylinders, lack of oxygen refill facilities, and shortage of critical medicines.
“Rajan was not able to secure a bed in any of the nearby hospitals and that is why he was at home. For me, it was an SOS call as he said the oxygen is limited and there is no way to get it refilled. I left Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital, within 10 minutes to go to Bokaro to arrange a filled oxygen cylinder,” Mr Rai told The Independent.
He covered the distance of 100 kilometres to Bokaro on his motorcycle within a couple of hours, to secure a cylinder. He was finally able to get on after an extensive search from an oxygen gas plant owner, who is another friend.
“On 25 April, in the afternoon at 3pm, I finally left Bokaro in a car borrowed from another friend and drove non-stop to Noida over 1,400 kilometres away. I only had water for me. I took no break for food or rest … I didn’t sleep or stopped for toilet and reached his house next morning at 9am after a journey of nearly 18 hours,” he said.
Mr Rai explained that when he reached his friend was left with oxygen only for 10-15 more minutes after which his oxygen levels would have started dipping to the early 80s. A level of oxygen in the blood below 94 (out of 100) is seen as cause for alarm.
Now, several days later, Mr Singh’s health has improved and his friend, who drove from Bokaro, is with him. Mr Singh’s wife is six months pregnant and cannot go out in case he needs anything.
“We talk regularly over the phone every few days but we met after a gap of three years. I am here till he finally recovers,” he said.
Mr Rai said there was no question of him not coming as Rajan Kumar Singh, who works in an IT firm, is his childhood friend.
“We were born in the same hospital and have been friends since then. We did our schooling together but were in different colleges after which he came to Noida,” he said.
Mr Rai is unmarried and only has his brother and sister-in-law in the immediate family. He had not informed anyone before undertaking the tough journey to save his friend, “There was nothing to ask anyone. My friend needed my help and I had to come,” he said.
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