Volunteers are the lifeblood of any organisation but, in the case of our chief executive Martin Ricketts, the word takes on extra meaning.
Martin is a blood biker, dedicating two weekends each month to couriering samples between south Wales hospitals as a volunteer rider for Blood Bikes Wales. The charity runs 18 motorbikes across Wales and Martin and his fellow blood bikers – as well as a wider team of organisers, controllers and fundraisers – are cogs in a vital out-of-hours NHS service giving a lifeline to patients and their families.
“The service runs from 7pm on Friday until 8pm on Sunday, covering four shifts,” said Martin. “I collect samples at 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm from the pathology lab in Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr, and deliver them to microbiology in the Royal Glamorgan, as well as responding to urgent calls.
“We carry a lot of patient samples; mainly blood, but other fluids as well. It’s really important to the individual that they get their test results and we’re a small link in the chain. We don’t know what the samples will be tested for, or even whether the patient will be ok, but I get a great sense of satisfaction from volunteering – even though it can get pretty boring riding up and down the A470!
“In Gwent there’s also the south Wales ‘milk run’, taking frozen breast milk to hospitals. There isn’t a breast milk centre in Wales, with the nearest being Birmingham and Bristol. A blood biker from Birmingham will meet a Wales volunteer at Ross on Wye, and the milk will then be taken to the Royal Gwent and Singleton Special Baby Units. All blood bikers are volunteers, with no paid roles within the organisation at all, but we all want to do something for the NHS.”
With a love of motorbikes dating back to when he was 16, Martin has been a Blood Bikes Wales rider since 2013. “When I retired from Barclays, I wanted to give my spare time to something worthwhile and I was aware that Blood Bike Wales was being formed around that time,” he said.
“Blood Bikes Wales covers all health boards in Wales apart from Cardiff and the Vale, with the bikes, repairs and fuel being paid for by donations. People often don’t realise we’re volunteers. It’s not just the bikers; it’s also the person controlling the shift, making sure we sign on and logging every run. There are also fundraisers collecting donations in supermarkets and at events such as emergency services days, and doing PR talks.
“One of the most satisfying moments for me was getting a 1am phone call to collect a sample of spinal fluid from a newborn baby with suspected meningitis. It was very special to play a part in that. It’s also lovely when you park up at the hospital and someone comes over to talk to you – usually about bikes! I was parked at McDonald’s once and a lady came up to
say that we do a wonderful job.”
To find out more about becoming a Blood Bikes Wales volunteer or making a donation, visit
https://bloodbikes.wales/ or follow the organisation on Twitter and Facebook at @BloodBikesWales.
Martin collects a generous donation from staff and customers at TSB’s Clifton Street branch in Cardiff.