When Lindsay Barnes, a Sociology student on a scholarship from Lancashire in north-west England met Ranjan Ghoshhad in the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in the 1980s, little did she know that fate would take her to a small village near the industrial town of Bokaro, Jharkhand.
Today, the couple share a home in Chambrabad village, 25 km from Bokaro, and Lindsay assists many pregnant women in the area, with labour and delivery.
How did a sociology student end up assisting over a hundred childbirths?
In 1993, she was residing in the village to conduct her research on the lives of those living around the coal belt, when a few neighbours came calling. They wanted her to assist a mother about to give birth to her child.
“I was astounded. I had no clue what to do and was trying to put them off with excuses. It was my husband who goaded me to go,” Lindsay told Metro. With no medical degree and little knowledge of how to assist the process of childbirth, she used a manual titled ‘Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook’ to guide her through the process.
“The local women who gathered around me knew I had no knowledge of midwifery, yet they were relieved to see me. They knew I would find a way out. That’s when it hit me that I must do something to help them,” she added.
Following her initial round of success, many others from different villages began to approach her for assistance since there was no resident doctor in the area and the primary health care centre is only open during the day. After conducting few procedures, she decided to gain further expertise at nearby hospitals and nursing homes, where she perfected her craft.
With almost 100 cases under her belt, she decided to hire safe rooms for deliveries. In 2001, she established a 12-bed health centre. “The village girls now run the health centre with minimal support from qualified doctors. I am still called to handle critical cases. Ninety-five percent of women have a normal delivery. We refer critical cases to nearby hospitals,” she told Metro.
With her husband Ranjan’s expertise in microfinance, the couple has managed to successfully organise 7,000 women from 120 villages under various self-help groups.
“Lindsay and her husband (also) set up Jan Chetna Manch (‘organisation for people’s awareness’), and started yearly health fairs, monthly camps, and then weekly clinics. Now clinics are open three days a week, providing services to around 600 women each month, mainly for antenatal care,” says this Commonwealth Scholarship Commission-UK report.
However, the couple is now planning to train junior doctors and nurses to deliver babies in rural areas, where healthcare facilities are at a minimum. Nearby hospitals, meanwhile, are planning to send junior doctors or medical students to volunteer in the village.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)