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UCHealth staff coordinates medical supply drive for India as country battles COVID-19 surge

Face masks, gloves and other items will be donated
Posted at 4:49 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 19:43:18-04

AURORA, Colo. -- Dr. Saketh Guntupalli watched horrific images of India's COVID-19 crisis on TV, and he heard from his family in the health care industry battling it on the ground.

His cousin is a neurosurgeon who is now treating COVID-19 patients as the pandemic continues to surge.

"I know the places, I know the people and I know what they’re going through, so we want to help and that’s what we’re doing," said Guntupalli, chief of gynecologic oncology at UCHealth.

He sent an email to his colleagues and asked if they would be interested in organizing a supply drive. Everyone sprang into action and found surplus items to donate, including face masks, face shields, gloves, gowns and alcohol wipes.

"After talking with my contacts on the ground in India, that’s what they said they needed," Guntupalli said.

Shauna Sutton, a nurse manager for the operating room, is helping coordinate the effort by collecting supplies that are not being used by the hospital.

"It’s an honor. It’s an honor to be able to help and when we see that people are in need, we just all think, 'What can we do?'" Sutton said.

It only took a matter of days to put together several boxes of supplies, but the shipping cost remains the biggest challenge. Guntupalli started a GoFundMe page to help cover the shipping expenses, which he believes will be several thousand dollars. The company he is working with has agreed to ship the items at a discounted rate after learning about the effort.

Donations are still being accepted, and any money collected will go directly to pay for shipping. The team at UCHealth wants to send the items as soon as possible.

"We wanted to send things that they could use immediately, like the minute they hit the ground," Guntupalli said.

Guntupalli said he is overwhelmed to see that so many people are willing to come together to help a place that's so close to his heart. Some of his colleagues have been posting pictures with signs that read "Stay Strong India" to show their support.

"I’m just moved to tears, honestly, by it. I’m speechless," Guntupalli said. "This idea that 8,000 miles away in a country that’s so different, we still share the same values, and we still want our kids to be healthy, we want out families to be healthy, we want our parents to be healthy — that’s a universal truth."