New Delhi: “A few weeks ago, my father-in-law was infected with COVID-19. Till then, we all were in our bubble that coronavirus is something that is happening outside our house and we all are in our safe spaces. But the bubble burst and the disease came to the house. We were lucky to find the hospital for the treatment and a few days later we were informed that he needs plasma therapy and that’s when the things got scary. It took us four days to find the donor. The desperation, franticness and the helplessness to find a possible match made us launch Dhoondh.com,” said the founder of the website Adwitiya Mal.
Dhoondh a Hindi word that means ‘to find’, after his own fight to find a possible plasma donor, Adwitiya Mal with his childhood friend Mukul Pahwa decided to make a website that closes the information gap. Investing over ₹2.27 lakh from their savings, the duo developed Doondh.com in about four days. The website allows the patients and donors to register themselves on the platform so that both parties can simply connect. The patient can enter his/her details, get matched with a possible donor and connect. Currently, there are about 920 patients and about 201 donors registered on the site as of June 25, Adwitiya Mal adds,
When I and my family was going through the torturous time of finding a donor, we realised information is one thing which is a problem when it comes to plasma therapy in the times of coronavirus. We were looking for donors, through WhatsApp, Facebook, messaging people we know and whatnot. We realised there is no particular method or system. And that’s when it struck me, if we are going through this then there will be thousands and thousands like us who are going through the same issue. Maybe this is a problem that should not exist in the 21st century.
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Adwitiya Mal further said that this method is not a 100 per cent effective therapy or a cure to coronavirus pandemic, it is still in trial phases and at the end of the day it is the doctors or hospital that needs to prescribe for plasma therapy. He added,
But this platform is scarily the line of last defence. When it comes to plasma therapy, in our country, it has reached a critical stage in terms of COVID-19 treatment and therefore it becomes very important that it is available to the people.
Plasma therapy is basically a treatment that uses antibodies from people who have recovered from disease to treat patients and boost their immunity. In the case of COVID-19, the therapy is still considered an experimental treatment and usually used to treat critical patients. In India, 113 medical institutes are participating in a clinical trial led by the Indian Centre For Medical Research (ICMR) to test the efficacy of the treatment. Last week, the health ministry said plasma therapy may be considered for patients with moderate illness with no improvement in condition despite the use of steroids.
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Talking about how the donors and how they can register with Dhoondh, Adwitiya Mal said,
There are numerous criteria that make a donor eligible for plasma therapy, for example, has the donor recovered in the last 14 days, the general health of the donor, do they still have antibodies in their system, at the moment, our website has 76 eligible donors and all have been matched. We have got people coming in more but not at the same speed as we have got the patients.
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Mukul Pahwa, who engineered the website sitting across the continent in London talking about his journey in launching the website Dhoondh that aims to help people told NDTV,
When Adwitiya told me about his experience and the idea of solving the information issue involved with plasma therapy by giving people a common platform, I was instantly involved. We brainstormed the idea and one thing was clear that we needed this to be up as soon as possible. So, during the weekend, I spent some time on it and made a platform. Then we shared with the group of people we know, on social media and the platform instantly gained eyeballs as this was the need of the hour. We launched a site on a Friday and by the weekend it already got 20,000 hits and that really motivated me.
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The Duo initiative has been functioning with the help of Adwitiya Mal’s wife, and some 10 odd volunteers who man the phones. Currently, the team receives 25-30 requests in a day.
Rohit Kohli, a successful donor who got matched on Dhoondh.com talking about his story told NDTV,
The key message for people is that we need not be scared of COVID-19. There is a lot of fear and stigma that is attached to coronavirus right now and when I was tested positive of coronavirus, I was scared too. But I managed to cope up with it and the moment I finish the home isolation, I got myself registered with Dhoondh, the platform of which I got to know through social media. There is nothing more satisfying than saving someone’s life. Both I and my wife are registered with Dhoondh and I think, people who are recovering from COVID should get on to platforms like this. It is the need of the hour and there is nothing to be scared of. The process of registering with Dhoondh was so simple, I registered myself while sitting in a car, within few minutes, I got a call from them, they enquired few of the details from me and then I started to get calls from the patients and that’s set.
The world is battling with Coronavirus pandemic, India is the fourth worst-hit country and we are about to near the deadly 5 lakh COVID-19 cases. Adwitiya Mal signs off by saying,
In this crisis, think of ourselves as your extended family and I simply hopes that we get more and more donors so that we all can tackle the pandemic together.