BENGALURU: Breathless and fighting for her life, Niveditha (name changed), a Covid-19 positive patient suffering due to low oxygen levels was turned away from every hosptial in the city due to lack of oxygen beds. This is when her friend started looking for help on WhatsApp.
During this bed-hunting, they found the number of Bengaluru's 'Oxygen man' Yatish Babu.
On calling Yatish, his humble attitude and assuring words gave so much hope for Niveditha’s brother Abhi.
"Cylinder reached us promptly and we could save my sister’s life. She is now recovering at home and we managed to even get a hospital bed the next day. He is indeed a saviour," says Abhi about the 'Oxygen man'.
A resident of Bengaluru, Yatish, in the last 25 days has supplied oxygen cylinders to more than 100 families not just in Bengaluru Urban but even to the city’s remote corners.
Yatish’s phone doesn’t stop buzzing during this second-wave of Covid-19.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Yatish tells how it all started. He says "during the previous lockdown, he along with his brother and biker friend, delivered essential medicines to people in rural areas."
His father went through an episode of severe breathlessness due to a non-Covid chest infection but had recovered. His doctor had told Yatish to keep an oxygen cylinder handy just in case his father might need it.
Being in a joint family of almost 12, Yatish purchased three cylinders. He gave one to his friend who needed it and decided to keep two cylinders for emergency purposes.
However, one week passed by and he began to see on the news about peopel dying due to lack of medical Oxygen. Feeling guilty of keeping two cylinders at home for a week, Yatish started to lend these cylinders to people whoe needed it on urgent basis.
He then slowly began to procure cylinders from a company in Jigani. Each Jumbo Oxygen cylinder cost Rs 19,350. Even with regular use the cylinders would suffice for two days.
"My friends, Vijay, Praveen and Basavaraj came back from their villages to help me with this service." he added.
"There are many families where only senior citizens are at home and in need of oxygen cylinders. The four of us ensure that we take the risk and deliver cylinders to them. We ensure we climb up all the way to even third or fourth floor and get it delivered." he said.
Yatish says "the first thing he does is to ensure he recieves every single call that comes to him. If due to a busy line or some other reason I don't answer, I have made it a point to call them back."
For Yatish, "One call means there is a life waiting for my help. I always give confidence by talking positively to the person on the other line. That boosts their hopes. There have been times when I have not been able to deliver but that person has called me back and thanked me for speaking so confidently to them and they had managed to get someone else to help,"
Yatish also has a friend's ambulance at service and uses BBMP's ward ambulance to help those who need an ambulance with oxygen to take them to the hospital.
Remembering his callers, Yatish says, "Once I was coming back after providing cylinder to save a pregnant woman, though she wasn't covid positive, her oxygen levels had dropped and she needed help. I took the cylinders all the way to Hesaraghatta and helped her. On my way back home in Malleshwaram, I recieved a call from a young girl. She said, it's only her mother, herself and grandmother at home and her granny was Covid-19 positive. She needed the cylinder and I sent my friends with the cylinder."
They told me the girl's family lived in a very small hut and won't be able to buy the regulator which costs about Rs 4,500. So the team provided her with a new flowmeter.
A day later the girl called Yatish and thanked him for the cylinder. She then asked him to collect the cylinder back as "grandmother didn't has passed away."
The girl said said "I am glad that she didn't die due to lack of oxygen. She died a decent death. Please help more families with this cylinder".
Yatish apparently sent Rs 10,000 with her friends who had gone to collect the cylinder but the girl refused and asked them to use it to help other people.
He says, these encounters and good wishes from people has kept him going during these tough times.
However, there is a new problem now, he says. The state government has recently passed an order saying no individual is allowed to refill cylinders.
"This is going to be a big problem and hindrance not just to me but even those who are under home isolation due to lack of oxygen beds and are managing with such oxygen cylinders."
He intends to now have a small team with one doctor, one nurse and an ambulance with oxygen so that he can provide immediate medical help too for the needy and those who cannot afford to pay.