Like many of her colleagues, Payal Aggarwal, DO, was on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19. A pediatrics resident at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, she was in one of the country’s hotspots as the pandemic spread across the globe last spring. Now a pediatric oncology fellow at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, the New York native and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine - New York graduate helped her home state through the toughest times and saw conditions improve as vaccination numbers went up and up. Yet, just as the situation was getting better in one home, a crisis was breaking out in her other home.
Dr. Aggarwal’s father immigrated from India back in 1980 and for all her life, she and her family went back for long visits at least once a year. “I feel like I grew up both in New York and India,” says Dr. Aggarwal. “My in-laws live there, and we have lots of family members throughout the country.”
So as the COVID-19 pandemic started ravaging the country recently, Dr. Aggarwal felt the need to do something. Just as she acted to help patients in New York, she felt the need to do whatever she could to help those suffering in India… including the overworked healthcare workers.
First thoughts were to find a way to send much needed oxygen generators to hospitals. However, those types of equipment donations were being regulated and managed by the Indian government, so it was not a way to make a quick positive impact.
“It seemed that people were having a hard time getting connected to healthcare and once they were, the doctors are so overworked. I looked for a more personal and direct way to help,” said Dr. Aggarwal.
That is when she reached out to the Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine (ISCCM). The ISCCM had started a help line through What’s App and Dr. Aggarwal realized this was a very direct way she could help people in India. In a day she was signed up for the hotline and immediately began receiving calls. Through the hotline, she can answer questions, provide counseling and direct patients what to do and what treatment to seek.
“Anytime I am free or have some downtime, I log in and am able to connect with people.”
Not content with being a solo act, Dr. Aggarwal has been spreading the word to friends and colleagues. “It’s been great to see so many doctors from my network signing up. There are now doctors all across the US, from places like the United Kingdom and Australia providing care 24 hours a day.”
“It’s been very rewarding being able to do something to help. It’s also really interesting from a medical care aspect,” remarked Dr. Aggarwal. "I’ve gotten lots of calls from families being prescribed medicines that were proven ineffective here in the US. Being able to share NIH guidelines and giving updated information, it’s kind of like doing global medicine.”
For more information on how you can sign up or to ask any questions, please email Dr. Aggarwal at firstname.lastname@example.org.