Fighting for her life and breathless, Reshma Aub Shaikh lay for 15 hours in the rear of an auto-rickshaw as her husband drove around Mumbai’s streets in search of medical care.
Suffering extremely low oxygen levels in her blood and covid-positive, the 40-year-old was rejected from every hospital she visited due to lack of oxygen supplies and beds.
Her husband, Mehmood Khan, then turned to the internet for help. That’s where he discovered Shahnawaz Shaikh– called “the oxygen man.”
Khan contacted him, and within an hour or two, a free oxygen cylinder was transported by a volunteer to Reshma Aub Shaikh’s address, who is not related to Shahnawaz Shaikh. “The cylinder saved her life,” Khan said.
Shahnawaz, 34, born in a Mumbai slum and owned a small successful construction firm before the pandemic. But the year-long lockdown started in March last year forced him to close his business as “the condition went from bad to worse in Mumbai.
Mumbai is one of India’s worst-hit cities by coronavirus. The capital of Maharashtra state, which as of Monday, had reported more than 75,000 virus-related deaths and over 5.1 million coronavirus infections.
The dead includes Shahnawaz’s best friend’s sister, who was five months pregnant. In June last year, he saw her die at the doors of a prestigious hospital after a futile race to secure a bed.
“All she wanted was oxygen– that could have saved her unborn child and her,” Shahnawaz says.
He says her death moved him so much.
Shahnawaz had already started his non-profit organization Unity And Dignity Foundation (UDF) in 2015. Last July, he initiated its Ray of Hope Project to give free oxygen to Covid-19 patients.