Fifty one-year-old Zabunisa Sheikh is an asthma patient. On April 20 this year, she found out that she is Covid positive. Soon her condition started deteriorating as she was facing difficulty in breathing and was struggling to get a bed in a hospital. Her life was saved due to the timely intervention from Shahnawaz Shaikh, a 32-year-old man, popularly known as “Oxygen Man” in Mumbai. Mr Shaikh provided an oxygen cylinder to her.
“I cannot forget that time when my mother was suffering. Had it not been for Shahnawaz Bhai (brother), my mother may not have made it. If my mother is alive today, it is because of Allah (God) and Shahnawaz Bhai. There was no oxygen even in the hospital at that time, there was no oxygen in the local hospital here, Shahnawaz Bhai was giving oxygen there too,” says Asif Shaikh, Zabunisa’s son.
Shahnawaz Shaikh is now called the “Oxygen Man of Mumbai”. This is the recognition and love that he has got for saving over 8,000 lives.
When he saw his close friend’s pregnant sister dying due to the lack of oxygen in an auto-rickshaw, Mr Shaikh decided to leave the profession of a civil contractor, sold his SUV worth Rs 22 lakh, converted his general store into a war room, and went out to distribute free oxygen to the needy.
“In the last lockdown, people were not getting oxygen, beds. A tragedy happened at my close friend’s house during that time. His sister was pregnant and suddenly her health deteriorated, he took her to the hospital in a rickshaw but no one admitted her, so she died inside the rickshaw in front of a hospital. It is impossible to forget that image. She and her baby lost their lives due to the lack of oxygen. Then I saw that many people were going through the same situation. So, I decided to provide oxygen support to the needy people,” Mr Shaikh said.
Mr Shaikh started the mission alone but now he has the support of 40 people. Even children are joining him as volunteers. “When I started there were 4-5 people, now there is a team of 40. Each one has a decided role, and the team is doing a great job.”
Sushil Yadav, a volunteer, said, “We were getting 700-800 calls every day for help and every day at least 50-60 of those calls were such that they used to give us blessings. This used to boost up our enthusiasm towards our work.”
Syed Huzaifa, another volunteer, said, “It feels great if you get blessings. It motivated us to keep working with Shahnawaz Bhai.”
The “Oxygen Man” of Mumbai has not stopped here, now as the government and the healthcare sector is preparing for the possible third wave, Mr Shaikh is also gearing up for it. Along with oxygen cylinders they have also got some oxygen concentrators to help critical patients.