TOP WORK: Dr Barry Kirby with baby clothes donated for his charity Send Hope Not Flowers. He is pictured here with event organisers Naomi De Costa and Melissa Nielsen.
TOP WORK: Dr Barry Kirby with baby clothes donated for his charity Send Hope Not Flowers. He is pictured here with event organisers Naomi De Costa and Melissa Nielsen. LEE TOM / News Ltd

Doc sends hope, not flowers

A CHANCE sighting of a gravely ill woman by the side of the road in Papua New Guinea changed Barry Kirby's life for good.

A no-nonsense carpenter working on a housing project in the remote PNG region of Morobe Province in 1990, Dr Kirby stopped to help the woman, driving her to hospital, where she sadly died.

Her devastation and grief had a lasting effect on Dr Kirby, prompting him to return to university to earn his medical degree at the age of 52 and his Australian medical registration five years later.

He later returned to PNG, working to help women deliver their babies safely and founding The Hands of Rescue (THOR) Foundation - which aims to reduce maternal mortality in a country where women die at a staggering rate of one in 20 during childbirth - in 2011.

A year later he founded the Mother and Baby Gifts initiative, supported by the not-for-profit organisation Send Hope Not Flowers, which has resulted in an 80per cent increase in the number of expectant mothers receiving medical assistance during labour.

Dr Kirby, who hails from Carool in the Tweed, is this year recognised as an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia for the development and delivery of maternal health medical assistance programs in PNG.