SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir
As coronavirus cases surge in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, two local software engineers have developed a user-friendly website to connect plasma donors with recipients to save lives.
Vidur Tickoo and Jaswinder Singh, who hail from the region’s main city Srinagar, told Anadolu Agency they were touched by the way many people are seeking help from plasma donors through social media.
“It was really painful to see such ‘haphazardness’ where people were posting messages on social media and not getting much help in return while exposing their privacy as well,” Tickoo said.
In late July, he and Singh decided to develop a website in order to centralize all plasma donors and recipients in one place. It was designed to work on low-speed internet connections as well.
“We wanted to make it accessible to all, given the fact that our region has been without high-speed internet for the last 13 months,” Singh said.
High-speed internet in the region was suspended on Aug. 5 last year after the Indian government scrapped the limited autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir while bifurcating the disputed region into two federal territories directly governed by the government.
Despite a looming pandemic crisis and overburdened health system, the region remains mired in violence, military restrictions and uncertainties.
‘Be a Hero’
“Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed,” reads a message posted on the website.
“This message is for those who donate plasma to save lives. They are real heroes,” Tickoo said.
On the website, donors and patients can register details including their names, email addresses, contact numbers, blood groups and districts. For donors, an additional column for mentioning the date of their recovery from COVID-19 is added to make sure they are eligible for donating plasma.
Both the donor and recipient profiles get displayed on the website and they are automatically connected with each other.
Over two dozens people have already donated plasma to critically ill patients using the websites as thousands more registered for the donation, Singh said.
The latest government data indicates that more than 68,600 people in the region have been infected by COVID-19 while deaths due to the virus total over 1,080.
Medical experts in the region believe that for now, the plasma therapy is one of the best possible treatment methods for critically ill patients.
“This is one of the treatments which has shown promise, and many patients have recovered due to plasma therapy. We need more recovered COVID-19 patients to come forward to donate plasma,” said Dr. Suhail Naik, head of doctors’ association in the region.
Plasma therapy aims at using antibodies from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients to treat those patients who are critically infected by the virus.
“Until a possible vaccine is made available against the virus, plasma therapy looks promising,” he added.
Tickoo and Singh, who are currently working as software engineers in the Indian cities of Pune and Chandigarh, said the main reason behind creating a virtual network was to store the data profiles of donors and recipients so they can easily connect with each other.
“These are such hard times that launching small humanitarian initiatives can bring a lot of change. We know people are dying. But if we are able to save only one life, it means a lot to us,” Singh said.
As the plasma donation campaign is getting popular in the region, many recovered COVID-19 patients are coming forward to save the lives of critical patients.
But Singh told Anadolu Agency that many recovered patients do not want to donate plasma because they want to avoid the stigma attached to the disease.
“They do not want to be identified in the society. This is something very prominent, and it will not go away unless people are educated and made aware about it,” he added.
For now, Tickoo and Singh are looking to expand the reach of their website to all over India so that patients can connect with donors.
“This is a humanitarian cause, and we are doing this to save human lives wherever we can make it happen,” Tickoo said.
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