Volunteer bikers are the drivers behind a free service that transports urgent medical supplies like blood, drugs, and patients’ records to hospitals on an out of hours basis
BY Aisling Meath
BIKERS like to give something back - we love the buzz of the open road, and if we can enjoy a spin and at the same time offer our services to a worthwhile cause, then that’s what it’s all about.
That’s according to Declan O’Donovan from Aherla who is a founding member of Blood Bike South – a charity organisation comprising volunteers who love motorcycling and whose mission is to assist hospitals and other medical facilities by providing free out of hours transport of urgent medical materials.
It was established to take some of the pressure off the local hospitals in relation to their rising costs, and the motorbike service is available from 7pm-7am Monday to Friday and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday.
Blood Bikes is an idea that came from an organisation in the UK, and its volunteers are from all over Ireland, with groups in all the different regions. The service was born out of the desire to relieve sickness and protect health through the transportation of urgent medical supplies such as blood, blood products, breast milk, patient records, and drugs.
No journey is too long and one example of the kind of mission that Blood Bike South carries out was the transportation of breast milk from a donor in Ovens to a sick baby in Donegal.
Declan, a motorcycle instructor, who along with his wife Marie, and other bike enthusiasts Sinead Sheedy, Keith Aher, Colin Crowley and Seamus Barry of Cork Red FM fame initially generated the interest in starting up the Blood Bike South service. They rang around some of their contacts and there was a great response from among the biker fraternity.
Declan’s love of locomotion is in the family as his Dad, the late Michael O’ Donovan from Timoleague worked for CIE, and his mother, the late Teresa nee Harte was from Ard House, Clonakilty.
Declan also runs twowheeltraining.ie in Bishopstown Cork, is an RoSPA approved facility where he instructs people how to ride motorbikes to the highest safety standards. He is well known to many motorbike enthusiasts from West Cork who have learned how to drive under his tutelage.
He also provides free training for all of the volunteers for Blood Bike South who are required to pass Advanced Driver and Safety tests, RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)silver or gold, before they can be considered as riders.
These high level driving skills are essential in order to expedite their precious cargo to the destination without breaking speed limits, or any other rules of the road, and riders have to undergo regular reviews.
Member Pat Noonan said: ‘We couldn’t do it without the generosity of our local communities volunteers and sponsors. Without this support we would not be in a position to cover our running costs such as petrol and insurance.
‘We continue to welcome volunteer riders, who must be over 25 years of age, and also administrators, coordinators, and fund raisers.’
The coordinators are vital members of the team and are the first point of contact for hospitals and clinics when they call looking to use the service, and they liaise with the Blood Biker on call throughout the stages of their journey.
Blood Bike South are constantly fundraising, and it is the many sponsors and people behind the scenes who continue to make the service possible, such as the kind donation of free garage space by A1 sheds, near the 24 hour Amber garage in Bishopstown where the bikes are kept.
One of the people who helped fundraise for the Blood Bike South group is Finbar Tobin, a motorcycle enthusiast from Ardfield near Clonakilty.
He organised The Mike Tobin Memorial Bike and Vintage Car run, in memory of his late brother Michael Tobin, who sadly passed away from a brain tumour in 2005.
The spectacular charity drive along the coastline was part of the annual Ardfield Summer festival last year, and Finbar recalls a great day out where the Cork city group joined them at Ardfield, and they all cruised down Red Strand and on towards their destination of Union Hall where they were hosted by the Boatman’s Inn.
As a result of these local efforts a substantial amount of money was raised in aid of the motorbike charity serving the entire community.
When one considers the price of a taxi from Cork to Dublin is around €350, then the role played by Blood Bike South volunteers is clear.
‘Blood Bike South are great. I really appreciate what they do and particularly for palliative care, it’s magnificent,’ said Finbar.
• For more information about the group, to make a donation or to find out how to volunteer see Blood Bike South facebook page or call: 087-7190369