Severn Trent Services employee Lorraine Gough tells us about her fascinating, and vital second career.
I joined Severn Trent Services six years ago, and just six months later took over as chairwoman for a blood bike charity, along with my husband Geoff who is their fundraising manager and also a rider.
Midland Freewheelers is a charity run entirely by volunteers, operating 24/7, 365 days a year. There are no paid members and we do not run any premises. Our fleet of ten bikes and two 4×4 cars are kept at fire stations in Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
We assist any hospital in the West Midlands that request our services and although we are called blood bikes we transport not only blood, but platelets, plasma, samples, medication, and any other urgent items we can fit onto a motorcycle. And every other evening, we deliver blood to Midland Air Ambulance at RAF Cosford.
We also collect breast milk from ladies who donate. This is taken to Birmingham Women’s Hospital to be processed. From there we deliver to neonatal units that urgently need breast milk for sick or premature babies.
We also regularly run deliveries to Ross-on-Wye, where we meet up with Blood Bikes Wales, who carry on the journey to Swansea. Covid had a huge impact on this side of our service as we found ourselves collecting directly from mums who were having to isolate but had babies in the special care units. We take their milk to the units for them and have even delivered photos of one baby, taken by nurses, back to mum. Covid samples also now play a huge part of our jobs.
In December 2017 we started delivering a specialised chemotherapy drug to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This is an extremely time sensitive drug with a life of just 90 minutes from when it is mixed to being administered. We can get this from the lab in Kings Norton across to hospital very quickly through the traffic on a bike. We have also recently began transporting stem cells, another extremely time sensitive material.
All of this is carried out free of charge to the NHS.
Without our support, the NHS must rely on taxis or couriers. Our service saves them valuable resources.
The onset of Covid saw our work increase significantly, almost doubling the number of jobs we do, from 3,800 in 2019 to well over 6,000 already this year, all at a time when we have been unable to actively fundraise.
We do not receive any government funding, so we rely heavily on donations given to us by the public and tireless fundraising by our members. These funds cover not only the purchase of the motorcycles and cars, but insurance, fuel and maintenance. I usually spend most weekends at events or collecting at supermarkets. Many evenings a month I do talks, presentations and attend meetings including national meetings held four times a year by our umbrella organisation The Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes (NABB).
It’s a second full time job, just unpaid…but I love it.