From their home in Chennai, Preethi Esther Emmanuel and Grace Priyadarshini Emmanuel are fighting the Coronavirus with verified and up-to-date medical information, which they share on their Instagram and Telegram handles — END COVID CHENNAI_THE EMMANUELS and END COVID SOUTH INDIA_ EMMANUELS. The sisters chose this work following the difficulty their own family faced in finding such information.
At present, their posts are largely real-time information about availability of hospital beds and oxygen concentrators. Info relating to COVID Care Centres, helplines, pharmacies, doctors offering tele-consultation and those serving food to the quarantined is also shared.
In January, members of their joint family tested positive for COVID-19, one after the other. “We both tested positive but were in home quarantine, but my uncle, mother and grandparents had to be hospitalised,” says Preethi, a freelance architect and singer by profession.
Their mother and grandparents were battling a severe case of COVID-19. After a-month-and-a-half in hospital, on March 8, their grandfather died a painful death. Forty days later, the grandmother succumbed to post-COVID complications.
“Both our grandparents were strong with no co-morbidities but they could not battle the virus successfully. We were grieving, blaming the healthcare system including the care that my grandfather received, and then the loss got us started on this initiative to help others going through a similar situation,” says Preethi.
“Do not take COVID-19 lightly” was the message they started circulating among their circles and their posts promoted COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Around that time a family friend was struggling to find a hospital bed and the sisters managed to get them a hospital admission.
“We started in a small way putting our verified information for people in Chennai and it grew and grew in the last four weeks,” says Preethi, adding that many doctors whom they have come to know from their circle of friends helped build the online resource.
While Grace concentrates on information pertaining to Chennai, Preethi has leads posted from other districts of Tamil Nadu and a few South Indian cities. The initiative has grown into a small group of volunteers that help the sisters verify details coming in from various cities, they point out.
Grace — on a break from civil-service-exam preparations to focus on volunteering — says they get many “DMs” seeking help, and they cannot ignore the cry for help.
“We are out there as a person to help people that is why you will see either of our handles below every post, and this has also been possible as our family and friends pitch in,” says Grace.
Another feature of the initiative is sharing of real-time info on admission of patients, as shared by the caregiver, says Grace.
The Emmanuels, who are alumni of CSI Jessie Moses Matriculation Higher Secondary School, describe what they have done so far as “just the beginning”.
“The loss of my maternal grandfather’s loss got us started on this. My paternal grandfather has always motivated us to help the needy,” adds Preethi.
The many “thank you” messages motivate the sisters to strive harder in this initiative.
Follow their Instagram handles: grace_emmanuelrajan and preethi_emmanuel