The Blood of a Stranger

In the year 1990, childbirth claimed the lives of 128,000 Indian mothers.

This is the story of one such mother who did not bleed to death that year.

Village India rajakumari supervisor

Rajakumari is the supervisor of Blue Mango, an income generation program for women in rural Tamil Nadu. Her leadership, strength of character, and wisdom have touched hundreds of other disadvantaged women. I shudder, thinking that she could have died at the age of 23. That’s how old her first born son is today.

Village India Rajakumari son 2

Married to a poor Dalit alcoholic in Tamil Nadu, Rajakumari had already coped with three miscarriages and years of unhappiness. When her fourth pregnancy made it to term, she was elated. Clad in a new sari and armfuls of tinkling bangles, she traveled to her mother’s little hamlet in the mountains of Kerala for the delivery.

After a night of early labor, the family hired a Jeep to take Rajakumari to the local Primary Health Centre. As they bumped along the jungle road, the rear tire blew. Since he had no spare or cellphone, the driver abandoned ship and went for help.

Rajakumari’s pains were coming stronger now. After several worry-filled hours, the driver returned with a tire. Rajakumari reached the Primary Health Centre around noon and was delivered an hour later by forceps.

It was a boy!  Her mother called the man in their village’s Ration Shop who passed on the news to the relatives. A large group caught the only bus and came to visit. Laughter, chocolates, smiles. After an hour, the lot of them returned home by the same bus, the last one of the day.

After lying for hours on her back as instructed,  Rajakumari was finally allowed to roll onto her side. To everybody’s horror, an enormous lake of blood was spreading across the sheets. The nurse called the doctor’s residence, but he had left for another clinic. His wife was also a doctor, but she was eight months pregnant and inexperienced with such emergencies.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do,” the doctor said. “She can’t stay here.  She has to go to the Mission Hospital in Kattapanna right away. We lost one like her last month.”

There were no ambulances and all the local Jeeps had been commandeered for election propaganda.  With each passing minute, Rajakumar’s life continued to ebb.

“Do something!” Rajakumari’s mother began to cry “I don’t want my little girl to die!”

“There’s not much more we can do,” the nurse said. “She’s lost so much blood  all her veins have collapsed. I can’t even start an IV.”

A patient who had just given birth that morning spoke up.

“We have a Jeep,” she said. “I’ve asked my husband to take you to the Mission Hospital. And he’s a doctor too.”

The young physician lifted Rajakumari, bloody sheets and all, and placed her gently in his Jeep. Rajakumari’s mother and aunt climbed in beside her. The vehicle sped through cardamom estates and arrived several hours later at the hospital.

Rajakumari doesn’t remember much of this ride or what happened later. The hospital personnel moved quickly, somehow establishing an IV line and whisking her straight to the operating room. While the team struggled to control the bleeding, Rajakumari could hear the tinny announcements on the hospital’s PA system.

“We urgently need ‘AB positive’ blood. We have none in our blood bank. Please, if anybody has this type, contact the nurses. We need to save a young woman’s life.”

Rajakumari faded in and out. Finally around midnight, she was brought to the ward, a bag of dark blood dripping into her veins. Her bleeding had stopped. She hardly noticed the relatives who were crowding around to support her.

Ten long days later, Rajakumari went home with her little son.  She was extremely weak but very much alive.

Several months passed. One day while Rajakumari was traveling on a local bus with her mother and baby, a man rushed towards them.

“How are you all? How’s the baby?”

She wondered who he was and why he was so forthright.

“Don’t you recognize him?” her mother said. “Why this is the doctor who saved your life. He’s the one who left his wife’s side and brought you in his Jeep to the Mission Hospital.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I guess I was too ill to get a clear look at your face.”

He nodded kindly.

“And that’s not all,” Rajakumari’s mother said.  “Remember that you desperately needed blood and they couldn’t find a donor? Guess who was ‘AB positive’? This man is the one who gave his blood that you could live.”

Village India Rajakumari and Jeyanthi 2

About the Author

Bruce DeJong

I am an Indian of American parentage who practices medicine in rural Tamil Nadu. After years of getting to know the local people, they have begun to open up their lives, allowing me to paint a portrait of their village one story at a time.

  • Bob Granner

    This is a beautiful story. Please tell Rajakumari and her son and daughter that other strangers are also thankful for their lives. This is a wonderful modern-day Good Samaritan story.

  • Carol Ulrich

    Rajakumari – you are a role model for all the Blue Mango women. You are a survivor, and have been through many difficult situations in your life. I am so happy that you have come so far and are now helping so many young women. God bless you and your family! And thanks to Bruce for this story.

  • Carrie


  • Jenna

    Thanks for a wonderfully moving story.

  • adrian menzi

    Dear Bruce, dear Rajakumari
    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story – my wife went through the same ordeal after her first birth. I was called into the operation room to say good bye, then I left to pray, my new-born son in my arms. I cried to Jesus, telling him if he could make the storm abate, he could also still the bleeding.
    After 45 minutes the head doctor sought me out to tell me the bleeding had stopped just when they had given up hope. He didn`t know why – but I do! He is an awsome God and his angels are everywhere, driving Jeeps and donating blood – they even have the right blood-type!

  • Deanna

    I am aware of the vitality and empowerment Rajakumari has shared with so many through her leadership and life. And I feel grateful to all those who helped to save her life. Bruce, thank you for helping us bridge the gap between the USA and India so that we might stay connected. Your stories are important.

  • Janine Katonah

    Your are a great writer, Bruce, and an amazing storyteller. Please give my love to Tamar and Andry. I have another U.S. connection for Blue Mango. Could you send me the e-mail address? always, Janine

  • Thomas

    Tamar, Bruce, thank you for sharing Rajkumari’s story. I had no idea she had been thru a near-death experience. You guys are doing a fantastic job at blue mango.May God continue bless you both and your work.

    • Bruce DeJong

      Great to hear from you Thomas. Thanks

  • Kris Taylor

    Rajakumari was blessed – and has blessed many others. Thanks for sharing this story of a beautiful, strong and wonderful woman!

  • Suzan

    What amazing people who helped Rajakumari survive….and she has gone on to help her family and so many others. Just so inspiring, loving and hopeful. Thank you!

  • Pippa Mukherjee

    What a wonderful story and I am so glad that Rajkumari is alive and has her son for rememberance, I am amazed that she survived considering the length of time she was in the jeep, the health centre and the other jeep its is wonderful.

  • Kristin McLane Kehler

    Thank you Bruce, and Tamar and Rajkumari for this story! I almost died, too, in 1990 after childbirth…so I feel a link across the world…and so glad that Rajkumari is able to be part of Blue Mango and that you are all there in your amazing roles! It is wonderful to read stories that inspire and reflect love in these crazy times!