Sharma is still astonished by the sight of the tube entering Saurav's throat. He said, "I had to be strong while I was with him but I would collapse as soon as I left that room."
Saurav is now home, but he is still in a state of weakness and recovery. The family's joy is dampened by the mountain of debt accumulated while Saurav was sick.
As new cases of coronavirus have dropped, life has begun to return to normal in India. Millions are still drowning in huge medical bills. Indians are most likely to have no health insurance, and they can't afford COVID-19 treatment.
Sharma spent all of his savings to pay for an ambulance, tests and medicines, as well as an ICU bed. He then took out bank loans.
He borrowed money from his family and friends as the cost rose. He then turned to strangers and pleaded for help online on Ketto, an Indian crowdfunding site. Sharma claims that he has paid more than $50,000 in medical bills.
He raised $28,000 through crowdfunding, but he also needed $26,000 to repay his borrowed money, which he had never before faced.
He said, his voice full of emotion, "He was struggling for life and we were struggling with him to survive." "I used to be a proud father, but now I am a beggar."
India's pandemic has ravaged its economy and left millions of people at the mercy a fragmented and chronically underfunded healthcare system. Experts believe such costs will hinder economic recovery.
"What we have are a patchwork quilt with poor public insurance and a weak public health system. Vivek Dehejia is an Indian economist who studied public policy. "The pandemic has demonstrated just how creaky these two things are."
Healthcare access in India was a problem even before the pandemic.
Indians spend 63% of their medical costs out-of-pocket. This is typical for many poor countries that have inadequate government services. It is difficult to find data on the global personal medical costs of the pandemic. However, treatment for COVID in India and other countries is an added burden at a moment when many millions of jobs have disappeared.
Many jobs in India have been restored after the March 2020 lockdown. However, economists are concerned about the loss of 12 million salaried jobs. Sharma was a marketing professional.
Sharma had not seen a check in 18 months when he asked his son's buddies to help him set up the campaign on Ketto. The company stated that 40% of 4,500 COVID-19 campaign's on the site went to hospitalization costs between April and June.
According to a Pew Research Centre study, 32 million Indians have been pushed out of the middle classes, which is defined as people earning between $10 and $20 per day. According to the study, 75 million people in India have been affected by the crisis. They are those who earn less than $2 a day.
K Srinath Reddy (president of the Public Health Foundation of India) stated that "if you look at what pushes people to debt or poverty then the top two sources are often out-of-pocket medical expenditure and catastrophic treatment costs."
Diana Khumanthem, a northeastern Indian city, lost her sister and mother to the virus in May. She was 2,400 km (1,490 mi) away.
The family lost all its savings due to the high cost of treatment. When the bill for about $5,000 at the private hospital where her sister died refused to release her body, she sold the gold jewelry in the family's possession to moneylenders.
She reached out to her relatives, friends, and sister's coworkers for assistance when that was not enough. She still owes about $1,000.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a health insurance program in 2018 that was designed to cover 500 million people out of India's 1.3billion. It was also a significant step towards reducing medical costs. It doesn't cover outpatient and primary care costs, which make up the majority of out-of-pocket expenditures. According to a Duke University working paper, it has not "effectively increased access to care and financial protection."
Shawin Vitsupakorn (one of the paper's co-authors) said that the program was also hampered by differences in implementation between states.
A second paper by the Duke Global Health Institute, and the Public Health Foundation of India found that the cost of COVID-19 hospitalization in the ICU is equivalent to almost 16 months of work for an Indian day laborer, or seven to ten months for salaried workers or self-employed workers.
India's 1.6% GDP is far less than the India or Ethiopia that spends on healthcare. Hospitals were overwhelmed at the peak of the outbreak in May. However, public facilities had the resources to deal with the floods.
Dehejia stated that the result was a failing public health system where care is often inadequate, leading to many people flocking to private hospitals.
Khumanthem's mother was treated in a public hospital, but Ranjita, her sister, was admitted to a private facility that would cost $1,300 per person.
Ranjita was the only income earner for the family after Khumanthem quit her job as a nurse to go home during the first round of the virus. She is now looking for work, while caring for her brother and father, who are both three years old.
Khumanthem, who lives in Imphal, grieved her mother by recalling her favorite food, chagem Pomba. This is a type gruel that includes vegetables, rice, and soybeans. She looked at the front gate every few minutes.
Ranjita usually returns home from work at this time," she stated. "I think she could still walk through the gate at any time now," I said.
Sharma was relieved when an ambulance took his son from the hospital to New Delhi. Saurav requires physiotherapy to strengthen his weak muscles. He also needs a daily nurse and a long-list of medications. He may not be able stand up on his own for weeks, and it could take months before the ambitious lawyer who was among the best in his class can return to court.
These costs will not stop.
Sharma stated that saving him was our first priority. "Now, we'll need to figure out what the rest is."