A-BE-C Partners with Physician Group to Raise over $500,000 to Aid India in Their Fight Against Covid
A group of physicians from New Jersey, Philadelphia and South Florida have teamed with the Association for the Bladder Exstrophy Community (A-BE-C), in leading a coordinated effort to send much needed oxygen concentrators to partner hospitals in major cities in India, to aid in their continued fight against Covid. India is experiencing the world’s worst outbreak, with 400,000 new cases each day.
Alarmed at reports that the physicians were personally hearing from family, friends and physician colleagues working in hospitals providing COVID relief in India, Dr. Shubha Varma, a vascular surgeon in New Jersey led an effort to help by first teaming with Dr. Ruchika Talwar, a urology resident at the University of Pennsylvania, to begin a fundraising campaign focused on delivering oxygen concentrators to hospitals in India. As hundreds of individual donors began donating to the effort after Dr. Varma started a GoFundMe page and Dr. Talwar initiated a social media campaign, the group expanded to include Dr. Aseem Shukla, a pediatric urologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. The physicians then joined with Executive Director of A-BE-C, Pamela Artigas, to support the fast growing initiative as their non-profit organizational partner.
“The second wave of Covid in India has been devastating. The incidence, prevalence, and death rates are devastating in their severity. The need for oxygen supplies is acute and urgent,” stated Dr. Varma.
The concentrators being sent by the physician team and A-BE-C do not require oxygen cylinders and concentrate room air to deliver a high percentage of oxygen to the patient and can save lives immediately. Mr. Rakesh Shalia, a Vice President at FedEx is serving as the delivery partner for the group and coordinating logistics.
“Our effort is unique in that we are delivering oxygen concentrators directly to hospitals where we have working relationships with doctors and administrators,” said Dr. Shukla, explaining the group’s work. “In working with host hospitals and FedEx, we aim to eliminate delays in distribution that can hold up supplies in warehouses, and leveraging personal relationships, we ensure that no concentrators are lost and that they are immediately used for direct patient care.”
Artigas of A-BE-C was selected as a partner non-profit for this effort as Artigas has traveled with a team of surgeons led by Dr. Shukla to India’s Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad, as part of the International Bladder Exstrophy Consortium for several years. Since the surgical collaboration that performs life saving surgeries to children with a rare condition, bladder exstrophy, was postponed in 2021 due to the pandemic, Artigas and A-BE-C quickly joined this effort to render aid from a distance.
“Our friends and colleagues are scrambling to save lives without adequate resources. People are desperate for oxygen, hospital beds, and more,” stated Artigas. “I’ve volunteered for medical and social work in India for many years. Seeing hospitals like the one where we have spent 13 years performing exstrophy surgeries suffer like this breaks my heart. The need is incredibly urgent and we are working tirelessly to raise funds to send several hospitals as many oxygen concentrators as we can get our hands on.”
The money they have raised has helped send oxygen concentrators and supplies directly to free hospitals they’ve personally vetted. 100% of the money raised goes directly to the purchase and delivery of these supplies.
The first 200 concentrators have been delivered, and two more shipments are on their way. Anyone who wishes to donate can make a fully tax-deductible donation through A-BE-C.
Executive Director – Association for the Bladder Exstrophy Community
A-BE-C’s work under the vision and humanitarian work of Executive Director, Pamela Artigas, is an untold and heartwarming story. After seeing her adoptive daughter suffer from the debilitating side effects and painful surgeries associated with Bladder Exstrophy (BE) Artigas has made it her life’s mission to help other children around the world, like her daughter, who do not have access to high quality healthcare. Artigas lives in Vero Beach, Florida, with her husband, Ric, and two daughters, Anna and Lily.
Aseem Shukla, MD
Endowed Chair and Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Professor of Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
In 2009, Dr. Shukla co-initiated a surgical workshop at the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, India, that has become an international model of Indo-U.S. academic collaboration. This collaboration brings together a leading American children’s hospital and India’s most respected pediatric surgeons to address the vast surgical burden of complex urological anomalies in India. The annual Bladder Exstrophy-Epispadias consortium is in its 13th consecutive year.
Ruchika Talwar, MD
Chief Resident, Urologic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Ruchika Talwar is pursuing a career in urologic oncology and health policy, and is an associate fellow at Wharton’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. Dr. Talwar has several national positions within the American Medical Association and American Urological Association. She makes several trips to DC every year for congressional meetings to advocate for health equity and improved quality of surgical and cancer care.
Shubha Varma, MD
Shubha Varma is a practicing vascular surgeon in Hackensack, New Jersey. Devastated by the state of affairs in her beloved country of origin, India, she started the Oxygen to India Campaign. From her feelings of deep sadness and sheer helplessness on seeing so many friends and families lose their loved ones every day, many times a day, arose a burning desire and strength to do everything possible, to alleviate the suffering of her Indian brothers and sisters. She has subsequently mobilized a significant network of physicians and operational systems in the United States and in India, to make available oxygen delivery systems in inner city hospitals as well as other charitable government hospitals all over India.
Her mission is to make health care as available to the general public in India, as it is to India’s rich. Once the matter of saving lives is taken care of, she hopes to help socially and emotionally rehabilitate Covid survivors who have lost everything in this crisis.