06 August, 2021

Step On The Gas

Covid and oxygen shortage are a fatal mix, the second wave proved it. How prepared are we for a third?

Photograph by PTI
Step On The Gas

Imagine choking on a morsel of food and gasping for air—that rencounter with death most of us have had at the dining table at some point in our life. The Heimlich manoeuvre may save you from that stubborn crumb ­stifling your windpipe. Now, scale that choker several times up. What happens when your lungs, battered and heavy with fluid from an infection, struggle to pump air and process the amount of oxygen required to keep your body fully functional, and let you be a living, breathing human? You need oxygen—pure, medical grade—from a respirator, from a ventilator, from a cylinder. What if this oxygen isn’t available, like it happened when the second wave of the Covid pandemic peaked in April-May in India, overwhelming our healthcare system? Death—slow, ­painful and wretched, like a fish yanked out of water.

We have seen it during the month-long carnage—thousands dead ­begging for a breath, heart-wrenching scenes in hospitals, their emergency units and carports. A daughter tries to revive his father by pressing his chest with...

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