Vampires need not apply…

The phone rings. It’s 3.00 o’clock in the morning, cold and wet outside and you were fast asleep in your lovely warm bed, dreaming of…….….. Shaking yourself awake, you answer, listen carefully, making notes, and then ideally you would love to fall back into bed. But you don’t – you shake yourself properly awake, pull on your bike gear and you are off.

You may have to ride a hundred miles or more before you see your bed again

Someone somewhere is having a really bad time and may die unless you or another of the team do this. You are on call and have volunteered to deliver the blood/platelets/baby milk or other supplies that they urgently need. You’ll never meet the people you help, you just know that they are there and they need your help.

Across the country, this is happening every night of the year and all day at weekends, bank holidays etc. This is the standard operating model but now with COVID-19, the need is for the service to run 24/7 delivering more things such as prescriptions, test swabs etc. An ever increasing number of hospitals are being served.

Could you do this and be a Blood Runner?

The charities always need more volunteers and some like EVBS don’t specify an advanced qualification. Not everyone is a biker – some people are four wheels only. Some bikers use their cars when the conditions get tricky or unpleasant! Some people volunteer as Controllers, never leaving their own home, staying in contact with those out on the road and dealing with any queries. This is especially good for anyone shielding or who would prefer not to go into hospital buildings at this time.

Blood runner motorcycle
Loaded up for a blood run

My experience

At the start of lockdown, with no Observing for the foreseeable future, I had some time free so investigated the local group (Essex Voluntary Blood Service “EVBS”). I’m never going to be climbing out of my bed for this, but that wasn’t a problem – day shifts only are absolutely fine. I signed up and with the appropriate training (especially don’t open the box!) I signed up for the shifts that suited me and awaited the call. The shifts are 12 hours, 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. and there isn’t always a call. That’s good because no-one is in trouble and needs you, but can be frustrating.

The local blood bank is tucked away in an industrial estate in Basildon so lots of runs pick up from there and deliveries can be anywhere in Essex or slightly over the border into neighbouring counties. Some runs are scheduled ahead of the day and can be as short as three miles. The group keep the two air ambulances supplied with blood and pick up donated mothers’ milk from the mothers and deliver it to the milk bank at Harpenden. In the last three months, I have not done the same run twice so it never gets boring!

I have found the group universally a lovely bunch of people who go out of their way to help others. There was a big influx of new members at the start of lockdown but now many of those have gone back to work and the weekday shifts are as busy as ever, hence the need for new members. It is not a blue light organisation and everyone uses their own vehicle at their own expense. Having said that, the rewards are immeasurable and if you do get to glimpse patients sitting there waiting for what you’ve just delivered, it really gets you.

If you are interested in finding out more, just ask me or have a look at www.essexvoluntarybloodservice.com

ELAM Treasurer