Yesterday Northumbria Blood Bikes transported human milk for the first time, taking part in a 260 mile relay that involved 5 Blood Bike groups across the country. The whole run was carried out by unpaid volunteers, who give their time freely to help make a difference to the lives of others.
The story starts earlier in the week when we were contacted by the North West Human Milk Bank based in Cheshire. They explained that a lady in Northumberland had 11 litres of frozen breast milk that she was donating. The donated milk needed to make its way to the North West Human Milk Bank in Cheshire as there is no Human Milk Bank in the North East of England.
The Human Milk bank explained that breast milk gives babies the best start possible in life but sometimes there are reasons why the mum of a new-born, particularly a premature baby, cannot breastfeed herself. The mum might be physically unable to breastfeed due to illness, or perhaps needs help to establish her milk supply in the first few days after having a premature baby.
We agreed to arrange a relay, using the nationwide network of volunteer Blood Bike groups, to transport the milk to them. We contacted our friends at Cumbria Blood Bikes, North West Blood Bikes - Lancs and Lakes and Merseyside, Cheshire Blood Bikes and Bloodrun EVS. They all agreed to help get the vital breast milk to Cheshire.
The first challenge was to get one of the special boxes needed to carry the frozen milk. The North West Human Milk Bank agreed to provide one so our friends at Merseyside and Cheshire Blood Bikes picked it up and with the support of a local haulage firm, it was transported to Teeside overnight. Our friends at Bloodrun EVS who provide a volunteer service to the Teeside area, agreed to collect the box and relay it to us. Unfortunately, an unexpected problem at the haulage company meant the box wasn’t there when Mac Watson the Bloodrun volunteer went to collect it. However, that wasn’t going to stop Mac getting the vital box we needed. A few phone calls, a couple of hours and 50 miles later Mac had the box in his possession. Mac then relayed it to a Northumbria Blood Bike volunteer. Everything was set for the run.
At 09:00 on Friday 10th February Rob Wilks a volunteer rider/driver and committee member of Northumbria Blood Bikes, collected the milk from the donor in Northumberland and transported it to the Hexham General Hospital.
At Hexham General he handed the milk over to John Cruse a volunteer with Cumbria Blood Bikes. John transported the milk to Southwaite Services on the M6.
At Southwaite Services John met up with Brian Lord a volunteer with North West Blood Bikes – Lancs & Lakes. Brian transported the milk to Forton Services.
At Forton Services Brian met up with fellow Lancs & Lakes volunteer Martin Smith. Martin then transported the milk to Charnock Richards Services.
At Charnock Richards Services Martin met up with Robin Gartland a volunteer with Merseyside & Cheshire Blood Bikes. Robin transported the milk on its final leg of the journey, delivering it safely to the North West Human Milk Bank in Cheshire at 13:55.
It was a fantastic effort by all of the volunteers which we hope will make a difference to the lives of the many babies who will benefit from that milk. It’s just another example of the amazing and unseen work that Is carried out each day by the nationwide network of unpaid volunteer blood bike groups who provide a free out-of-hours delivery service to the NHS of blood, platelets, human milk and other urgent medical items.
Huge thanks to our friends for showing what team work is all about.
Blood Bikes Cumbria
Merseyside & Cheshire Blood Bikes
North West Blood Bikes Lancs & Lakes