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‘It’s not a case of if the next pandemic hits but when’ - NHS doctor and coronavirus survivor inspired to make documentary

PUBLISHED: 17:32 06 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:50 10 August 2020

Dr Nidhi Gupta, an NHS doctor and filmmaker, was inspired to make a documentary on pandemics after working in a Covid-19 ward and getting sick herself. Picture: Paul Starr

Dr Nidhi Gupta, an NHS doctor and filmmaker, was inspired to make a documentary on pandemics after working in a Covid-19 ward and getting sick herself. Picture: Paul Starr

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A NHS doctor who saw the devastating effects of coronavirus first-hand has been inspired to make a documentary about pandemics to sound the alarm for the next one.

In March, once coronavirus cases spiked, Dr Nidhi Gupta saw patients come in who would soon be followed by their family members as it spread throughout the community.

The 41-year-old NHS consultant, who normally works in an acute admissions ward in south east London, was transferred to a Covid ward to help deal with the influx of patients.

Nidhi was certain she would catch it herself through being exposed to so many infected patients and with limited amounts of PPE at the time.

A few weeks later she fell so ill that she had to throw her keys out the window for the ambulance when they came to her Redbridge home on April 23.

Dr Nidhi Gupta (centre) on the set of her Film London funded short Suburban Dracula. Picture: Lloyd JonesDr Nidhi Gupta (centre) on the set of her Film London funded short Suburban Dracula. Picture: Lloyd Jones

“I couldn’t breathe and my oxygen levels plummeted so much I couldn’t walk so they had to carry me downstairs in a chair,” she said.

She was admitted into a ward she had worked years before and for a few days she had such trouble breathing she thought she was going to die.

Luckily she didn’t need to go to ICU and she was released after a week.

She said she is grateful her case was relatively mild, compared to others, though she is still dealing with the aftermath of the virus, months later.

Nidhi has been a doctor for many years but also started her own film production company Busy Doctors Films in 2013. Picture: Nidhi GuptaNidhi has been a doctor for many years but also started her own film production company Busy Doctors Films in 2013. Picture: Nidhi Gupta

A few weeks ago Nidhi’s hair started to fall out, due to a lack of nutrients in her body due to a condition called telogen effluvium, which often affects women a few months after they’ve given birth.

She also lost a significant amount of weight and muscle mass and continues to have bouts of severe fatigue.

In 2013, after being a full-time doctor for a number of years, Nidhi decided to pursue a lifelong dream to become a filmmaker and she started her company Busy Doctors Production.

Part of the reason she did that was to not get burned out from the demands of being a full-time doctor.

Dr Nidhi Gupta (centre) on the set of her Film London funded short Suburban Dracula. Picture: Lloyd JonesDr Nidhi Gupta (centre) on the set of her Film London funded short Suburban Dracula. Picture: Lloyd Jones

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She has since pursued both careers with the same passion and was at the Berlin Film Festival meeting with potential funders for a film before coronavirus cases spiked and she returned to medicine full-time in March.

Nidhi has a background in infectious diseases and through reading about previous pandemics like the 1918 Spanish flu and how similar they were to Covid-19, she decided to use her unique skill set to make a film highlighting what can be learned from it.

“The idea of social distancing came from the plague.

Nidhi fell ill with the coronavirus in April and is still feeling the effects of it. Picture: Nidhi GuptaNidhi fell ill with the coronavirus in April and is still feeling the effects of it. Picture: Nidhi Gupta

“Pandemics are a fact of life and part of the ecosystem so it’s not a case of ‘if the next pandemic hits’ but when.”

She was inspired to act after “having seen the pain and suffering so much in my own job with my patients and then experiencing it myself and seeing that it’s all happened before and we’ve been through it before and we’ve learned nothing.”

She is currently fundraising for a feature-length documentary called Start. Stop. Repeat.

She said: “Previous pandemics have been catalysts for social change.

“So the idea is how do we find a positive future so when this happens again our society doesn’t collapse?”

As a child growing up in Ilford, Nidhi said she was the odd one out who would read Empire magazine and asked for a copy of Singin’ in the Rain for her 16th birthday.

At the time she didn’t realise she would want to pursue a career as a filmmaker and studied medicine.

After graduating she started working on films in her downtime on weekends until 2013 when she decided to get serious and pursue both at the same time.

Since then she’s made a number of short films as a producer and writer, one of which received funding from Film London.

She has pursued her career in film while continuing to be a doctor half the time.

“It’s taken me a long time to find the balance between the two and prove to both worlds that I’m not just a hobbyist in either field.”

To find out more info on Start. Stop. Repeat. or to contribute to the fundraiser visit https://greenlit.fund/project/start-stop-repeat


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