Chennai's Virtual Warriors Save Hundreds of Lives During Pandemic
From their Chennai home, sisters Grace Priyadarshini Emmanuel, an IAS aspirant, and Preethi Esther Emmanuel, an architect, both Covid survivors, are virtually helping other patients and their families every day. They share verified information on availability of beds, oxygen, ambulance, medicine, oxygen concentrators and even food on their Instagram pages. The siblings work 18 hours a day, glued to their devices, talking on their phones or texting those in need of help or hospitals and service providers. Their timely leads, they say, have helped several thousands of patients as the messages were shared and went viral when cases in Tamil Nadu peaked amid the second wave, with acute shortage of oxygen and beds.The sisters lost their maternal grandparents to Covid after five members in their family, including their mother Pamila Emmanuel, contracted the virus. It was then the family, just like thousands of others, faced the ground reality of shortage of beds and oxygen facilities and struggled without leads that led to wastage of time.Once the sisters recovered, they decided to reach out and help others like them with credible leads. On what motivates them, Preethi Esther, who's also a gospel singer, said, “People found beds when they were on the verge of dying. What more in life can one ask for? In the ambulance, when you hear the beep sound, you know the person could die any moment and I find a bed and they stabilise. What more can one want?"In just weeks, they evolved a unique model. More than a hundred individuals from around the world who benefitted from their help volunteered to join hands with them. They verify every lead before sharing. Their reach has now expanded across south India. "People don't have to call us as we share only verified leads and we receive so many thank you messages and calls about how the information helped them," said Priyadarshini Emmanuel. With specific lead for a bed from the sisters, Martina Preethi, an HR professional, could save her uncle's life. Now, she has become a virtual volunteer, giving her time out of her working hours.She told NDTV, “It was almost like there was no life for him. In that situation, it was very helpful. He has completely recovered now. Perhaps, even the government could take a leaf out of their model.”Their service endeared them to doctors, NGOs, nurses and health workers as well. All of them would alert the sisters about availability of beds, oxygen, ICUs and so on, which they were then able to share with those in need in real time. Talking about their humane approach and use of social media, Grace Priyadarshini Emmanuel said, “Hospital leads, oxygen and especially in emergency cases, we call them up in minutes and meet their needs. We are using social media legitimately in the right way I feel. We are putting it to the best use.” When asked about skipping her civil services exam preparation, she said, "Even now, I serve people and IAS is all about serving people.”As part of the Lottoland Aaj Ka Sitara series, we feature ordinary citizens and their extraordinary actions. Lottoland will support Chennai's Virtual Warriors cause with a cash incentive of Rs. 1 lakh.