Eminent cardiologist and Padma Shri awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, who gained more prominence with his informative videos about COVID-19 on social media, has succumbed to the deadly virus, according to a statement posted on his Twitter handle.
Aggarwal, 62, was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi and was on ventilator support since last week. He died at 11.30 pm on Monday after a lengthy battle with COVID-19, the statement said.
He had received both the doses of vaccine. However, he had co-morbidities as he was suffering from Crohn's disease and had pulmonary embolism three years ago, a friend said.
"The show must go on," the former Indian Medical Association president, who has been among the prominent faces of the medical fraternity, had said in his affable and unassuming manner in one of his last videos as he sat with a nasal cannula for oxygen support.
"We have to get people out of this crisis," he said, urging doctors to see more and more patients with similar symptoms at one go during teleconsultations.
Members of the medical fraternity remembered Aggarwal as "very hard working, innovative and pragmatic" and hailed him as an "iconic figure in mass education and awareness".
"He was a medical activist who worked for 18 hours every day and in the last 16 months, the kind of work he did for creating awareness on the virus was phenomenal," said Dr Vinay Aggarwal, former national president of IMA who had an association of nearly 35 years with the late doctor.
Aggarwal regularly posted videos raising awareness about the deadly virus on his Twitter handle and gave free consultations. His team at the Heart Care Foundation of India kept uploading videos about COVID-19 even while he was hospitalised.
The apex medical body IMA said his demise was "an unexpected and tragic loss" and held an online condolence meeting.
"Dr. K. K. Aggarwal was a true legend was an iconic figure in mass education and awareness. He served millions of lives and his services proved a guiding torch to all of us even during the pandemic... IMA is poorer by the loss," it said in a tweet.
Aggarwal is survived by his wife Dr Veena Aggarwal, son Nilesh and daughter Naina. His wife, who was also COVID-positive, was admitted to Max Hospital, Saket and was discharged, according to a family friend.
People from all walks of life took to Twitter to express grief over the demise of the doctor who had touched the lives of many through social media during the pandemic.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it was a "setback for the whole nation".
"He acted all his life for the health rights of common people especially poor, deprived n marginalized. A great human being. RIP! (sic)," the chief minister wrote on Twitter.
Aggarwal was among the first frontline workers to take the first dose of the anti-COVID vaccine in January, which he revealed during a live video broadcast from his car.
The video of the broadcast, however, went viral after he was interrupted by his wife's call and their conversation was heard by the audience.
The doctor later said he was happy that he had provided some moments of levity in these tough times and urged everyone to take the COVID vaccine.
Even after testing positive, he had continued to educate people about the virus.
"If you have received two vaccines like me, you may experience two phenomena -- either you may get significant pneumonia or you may get a significant inflammatory response.
"Yesterday my CRP was 10 and today it became 25 which tells me I have a hyperinflammatory response... Do not be afraid of vaccination. Vaccination will protect you from serious corona," he had said.
In one of his last videos uploaded before he was hospitalised, he requested doctors to start "jugadu OPD".
"I am having Covid pneumonia which is progressing. Raj Kapoor had said, 'The show must go on'. He was known as the showman. He was not a showman but the most practical man on earth, he said, adding "people like me will take calls even while being on oxygen support and make efforts to save people."
"People having the same kind of symptoms -- loss of smell and taste-- must be seen within 15 minutes. The time for one-to-one consultation is gone.
"Have 100 people together of same symptoms together and give them joint consultation. We have to get people out of this crisis. I request all doctors. Call your patients on Zoom. The show must go on according to the circumstances," he had said in the video.
The statement posted in the early hours of Tuesday on Aggarwal's Twitter handle said he wanted his life to be celebrated and not mourned. "Even during the pandemic, he made constant efforts to educate the masses and was able to reach out to 100 million people through numerous videos and educational programmes and saved countless lives," the statement read.
He had received the Padma Shri, the country's fourth-highest civilian honour, in 2010.
He was also honoured with the Dr B C Roy Award.
Aggarwal's name was mentioned in the Limca Book of Records for training the maximum number of people in the lifesaving technique of hands-only CPR at one go.
He was born in Delhi on September 5, 1958. He completed his MBBS from MGIMS, Sevagram under the Nagpur University, where he was adjudged the best graduate in 1979.
"In 1992-93, he came up with the idea of organisaing Health Mela and was quite determined to make it work.
"He worked hard and it became a success among school children, with artists attending it and giving messages on maintaining good health. Government departments vied with each other to have stalls in the Health Mela," Dr Vinay Aggarwal said.
He recalled that in 2005 as the IMA national secretary, when KK Aggarwal the DMA president, they had begun an initiative Aao Gaon Chalein, under which the IMA would adopt villages and conduct medical check-ups.
"He was instrumental in taking the programme to slums of Delhi and making it successful.
"I had spoken to him last around May 2 or 3, when he was down with COVID, and he was saying that if I need any assistance in helping coronavirus patients, he was ready," he recalled.
For many like Ajay Gambhir, honorary state secretary, DMA, Dr KK Aggarwal was a one-man army "due to his nature of completing difficult task single-handedly".
"His scientific way of bridging the gap between ancient knowledge, spirituality and modern-day practices was quite motivating," Gambhir said.