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UCHealth doctor organizes medical supply drive for India; donations allow him to ship 12 boxes

Additional shipments will be sent out this week
Posted at 5:49 PM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 19:52:52-04

AURORA, Colo. — Personal protective equipment like gloves and gowns were in short supply at Dr. Sriram Damaraju's hospital in Hyderabad, India. He said they were beginning to resterilize and reuse gloves when a shipment arrived from his cousin who is a doctor at UCHealth.

"He’s always been a very sweet guy and we’ve always had a great relationship. And one day I just got a phone call from him and he said, 'Sriram what can I do?' I said, 'Anything is helpful,'" said Dr. Damaraju.

His cousin, Dr. Saketh Guntupalli, reached out to the leadership team at UCHealth and they agreed to donate surplus items from the hospital's stockpile. Dr. Guntupalli and other colleagues collected gloves, face shields, gowns and sanitizer but they still needed to raise money for shipping.

In early May, Denver7 highlighted the effort to ship medical supplies to India, and within hours, Dr. Guntupalli had raised enough money to begin sending several boxes.

"Lots of people in the community who I didn’t even know, most people actually donated anonymously, so I don’t even know who they are. And they’re just people, I think, who watched the story and were so moved by the images they saw and wanting to do the right thing,” said Dr. Guntupalli.

Dr. Guntupalli said donations came in from all over Colorado, totaling more than $16,000. To date, he has shipped 12 boxes to various parts of India, with additional shipments expected to go out this week.

“I was shocked at how much money we raised in such a short amount of time. It was really, really quite spectacular," said Dr. Guntupalli.

When Dr. Damaraju opened the boxes, there were notes and well wishes from staff at UCHealth. He said the personal protective equipment was put to use immediately. He had already placed several orders for additional supplies but those shipments had been delayed.

"It think it was very generous of him and his staff and his friends who put together these packages and gave it to us. It was a lovely gesture because, as I said, it came at a time when there was a sudden shortfall," said Dr. Damaraju.

The highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant was first identified in India and is believed to be responsible for a sudden spike in cases. This week, the Centers for Disease Control labeled it as a "variant of concern" and the World Health Organization said it has been identified in more than 80 countries.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the first known case of the Delta variant in the state was identified in Mesa County on May 5. As of June 15, CDPHE has identified the variant in more than 20 Colorado counties. Health officials added that vaccination is still believed to be highly effective against this variant.

"Never underestimate this virus," said Dr. Damaraju. “I suppose we all let our guard down and then we attributed it to the fact that there was probably another variant. This nasty variant that came through which now it’s called the Delta variant."