Indo-Canadian Trucker Who Was A Doctor In India Deliver Baby In Plane
“It was very exciting … I’m glad I was able to help,” Ahuja, who worked as a pediatrician, treating thousands of children in India, told the Toronto Star. “But I doubt I’ll use my skills again.” For the past six months after coming to Toronto, Ahuja has been learning to drive a truck!
TORONTO – For 25 years in his native India, Balvinder Singh Ahuja worked as a pediatrician, treating thousands of children, saving many lives.
For the past six months in Toronto, however, Ahuja has been learning to drive a truck, convinced it was too difficult a process to practise as a foreign-trained doctor in Canada, reported the Toronto Star.
But his experience as a veteran physician kicked into high gear Saturday when he performed an emergency delivery on an Air India flight from New Delhi to Toronto, turning a passenger cabin into a birthing room within minutes and improvising with makeshift instruments.
The baby, a girl, was born 45 minutes later.
“It was very exciting … I’m glad I was able to help,” Ahuja said in a phone interview en route to Collingwood in a tractor-trailer. “But I doubt I’ll use my skills again.”
At least, he doesn’t expect to use them here. Like most foreign-trained doctors, Ahuja must be recertified before he can practise.
But with thousands of foreign-trained doctors in the country and few opportunities for residency, Ahuja says he knows it will be almost impossible.
“I don’t want to get frustrated,” he says.
“I’m not closing that door completely but as of now I’m focusing on trucking because I have a family and I need money.”
Ahuja said he immigrated to give his three children a better future.
There are at least 7,500 internationally trained doctors in Ontario but fewer than 200 can get residency spots because they have to compete with young Canadians who are more familiar with the language and the system.
On board the plane, Ahuja had settled into his seat and was almost asleep when a call went out on the loudspeaker asking if there was a doctor or nurse aboard.
He went to the back and saw Kuljit Kaur, about 37 weeks pregnant, on the floor obviously in labour and in pain. Her husband, Ranjodh Gill, was sitting next to her.
The couple and their 7-year-old daughter were flying to Canada as landed immigrants.
There was also an oncologist on board. “She had never attended a delivery,” Ahuja said, quickly realizing it was all up to him.
He had seen hundreds of births and though he hadn’t assisted with any he knew exactly what needed to be done.
Ahuja quickly gathered what he thought he would need. And then improvised.
Empty food cartons were used to lift Kaur’s legs. Scissors were sterilized in Scotch. Pieces of thread tied the umbilical cord. The microwave warmed a blanket for the baby.
The baby was born after 45 minutes of intense labour but no one freaked out, said Ahuja.
“I’ve attended all sorts of emergencies in the past years but this was such a different experience,” he said.
“I was anxious but not scared. There was no alternative, too.”
Aakash Leen Kaur was born about 11,000 metres over Kazakhstan. Aakash means “sky” in Hindi.
Ahuja became an instant hero.
Passengers gave him a standing ovation, the Air India crew gave him a bottle of Scotch and the new father visited him at his home and gave him a box of sweets.
“I was so grateful there was a doctor there,” said Gill, 37, a lawyer who immigrated to Alberta under the provincial nominee program.
But the family wanted to spend some days in Brampton with his wife’s sister before flying to Calgary this weekend.
“My wife was due on Nov. 7,” said Gill. “We don’t know what happened, why the baby came early.”
He said her labour pains started an hour after the plane took off.
“We first thought it was gas but soon realized … it wasn’t,” said Gill, admitting he panicked a bit until Ahuja, calm and composed, showed up.
His wife, he said, is still tired but she and the baby are doing well.
Ahuja, meanwhile, is reliving his days as a physician through the mid-air delivery. “It was the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in Canada,” said Ahuja, who lives in Brampton with his wife and children.
“Getting my own truck.”
Is the baby girl born in Kazakhstan airspace Canadian or Indian? Or Kazakhstani?
Her father, Ranjodh Gill, says he doesn’t know and doesn’t care.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada will not comment on the baby’s status due to privacy reasons. “The status of the child will depend on the status of the parents,” said spokesman Bill Brown.
But he did present some hypothetical scenarios:
Generally, a child who is not born in Canada and does not have a parent who is a Canadian citizen is not a Canadian citizen either.
If one or both parents are Canadian citizens, they can apply to have a citizenship certificate issued for the child.
If one or both of the parents are permanent residents, they can apply to have the child become a permanent resident.
If the parents are here temporarily, they can apply to have the child gain temporary status as well.