An Indian businessman has emerged as a hero for bringing life-saving oxygen to thousands of COVID-19 patients as the pandemic ravages his country. Shahnawaz Shaikh is known as “The Oxygen Man.” He began his mission after the death of his best friend’s pregnant sister, who passed away while waiting outside an overwhelmed hospital for a bed. Oxygen would have saved her life, Shaikh says.
Shaikh, whose construction company went out of business during the pandemic, founded Ray of Hope in June to provide free oxygen. He initially spent $2,000 of his own money to buy 30 oxygen cylinders. But soaring demand quickly outstripped supply. So, he sold his SUV so he could buy another 160 cylinders.
An online fundraiser has since brought in more than $60,000, and Shaikh’s initiative has provided free oxygen to nearly 7,000 patients in and near Mumbai, India’s largest city, and covered medical costs for some. He gets 500 to 600 requests a day.
A devastating second wave of the pandemic in India has set records for new infections and deaths. It has led to dire shortages of hospital beds, medical workers, and oxygen.
Says Shaikh: “This is the time of need when human beings need to help one another, so it is essential to be that human being and help those in need.”