Blood Bike Mid West volunteers supporting the Kilmallock St Patrick’s Day parade in 2018: (Back Row) Brendan Caffrey, Brendan Byrne, David Scullane, Frank Heniger and Pat Murphy. (Front Row) Willlie Cambell and Anthony Manning Effin

You may have seen a Blood Bike rider on the roads and assumed it was a Garda or paramedic bike.
Blood Bike organisations have, in fact, been operating in the UK since 1962, and in Ireland from 2012.
However, it’s not a widely known service even though, essentially, a frontline emergency facility, supporting the HSE for free.
Indeed, in the UK, the 30 plus Blood Bike groups which serve the NHS hospitals have been recognised in legislation as an integral part of the frontline services, and have been accorded special charitable tax status as a result.
There are a number of groups operating in Ireland, with Blood Bike Mid-West being the one which covers the University Hospital, Limerick group of hospitals serving Limerick, Ennis, Nenagh and Croom.
Supporting good causes
We caught up with Mark Ball, the secretary of Blood Bike Mid-West to find out more.
Like most of the group’s volunteers, he is a lifelong biker, “Bikers are often among the first to get involved in any charity, and the biking community is renowned for fundraising in aid of many good causes”, he told the Weekly Observer/Vale Star.
“Being a Blood Biker is a big commitment, but we enjoy riding, and save the hospitals and the HSE a lot of money by delivering blood and other samples for testing, and breastmilk to babies in incubators for free. In addition, during the lockdown, from March to June last year, Blood Bikes Mid-West volunteers collected and delivered prescriptions daily to vulnerable people right across Limerick and South Clare.”

Passion for bikes
“People ask why we give up our time this way. The answer is that we want to simply give something back to the community. We are fortunate to be able to do this at the same time as combining a passion for riding motorcycles. There’s a lot of pleasure from the public fundraising events that we attend in normal times, meeting and chatting to the general public and it’s always good to come across people who have benefitted from the service.
We usually bring a scaled down model of a Blood Bike to these events for the children and they enjoy having their photos taken on it. The mums and dads seem to enjoy the chance of sitting on the full size bike also,” Mark added.

All walks of life
“We are often invited to join the emergency services and blue light parades that take place from time to time, which is a wonderful recognition of the work we do.
Blood Bikes has an informative website if you want to know more about us, while the Facebook page is kept up to date with recent activities. We had to put recruitment on hold during the lockdowns, as we weren’t able to organise the necessary face to face training. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, and we are always keen to hear from potential volunteers. All Blood Bikers have one thing in common – a love of motorcycles and a desire to help others.”

Public donations
Blood Bike Mid-West is a registered not-for-profit Irish charity established by local volunteers who look after the timely delivery of blood, breast milk and other time-sensitive material to hospitals and medical centres.
Depending totally on public donations and corporate sponsorship, the service is run free of charge to the medical bodies thanks to the legion of volunteer riders who give of their time freely for this life-saving service.
Blood Bikes carry out this valuable service free of charge to hospitals ensuring that ambulances or Garda vehicles are not taken out of service and kept where most needed.
When a hospital has an urgent need for blood, breast milk or other medical material, Blood Bikes, with their distinctive livery and narrow profile can quickly negotiate through busy traffic reaching their destination much faster than a four wheel vehicle could.
Breast milk transport is imperative for premature babies as they are unable to digest any other food source.

Responding to the call
Blood Bikes Mid-West provide an urgent medical transport service to/from hospitals, private hospitals, clinics or hospices and individuals in their own homes.
It operates a 24/7 emergency call-out service using volunteer riders and drivers. These volunteers cover a regular duty at the weekends and on bank holidays, and then respond to urgent calls as and when they arise. It does not charge for this service and none of the volunteers are paid.
Volunteers consist of controllers – who take the calls from hospitals and organise the transportation – motorcycle riders, van drivers and fundraisers.
There is a team of trustees that work behind the scenes to ensure that procedures are maintained, finances managed efficiently and undertake many other tasks.
The volunteers are all Gardaí vetted and undergo induction training with the HSE, plus on the job training by shadowing an experienced volunteer, along with vehicle familiarisation.
The bike riders have all, at their own cost, achieved a high level ROSPA Training Certificate to keep them and their precious cargo safe on the roads.
The qualified riders use one of Blood Bike Mid West’s fleet of liveried motorcycles and they also have a van which has been sign-written with their information.

Hit by the pandemic
Like many charities last year, Blood Bike Mid West’s public fundraising activities were curtailed by Covid.
However, they have been able to continue providing their essential service through the generous donations received from both corporate sponsors and individual fundraisers.
The group is extremely grateful for this support, without which it could not operate. The majority of the donations received go towards keeping the vehicle fleet on the road, in good condition, fuelled up and ready to go.

Helping to save lives
Blood Bike Mid-West also has links with other Blood Bike Groups in Ireland and the UK, as, since 2018, breast milk often comes from there, and transportation over a longer distance is co-ordinated.
Mark Ball explains, “For example, if we have a sample to go from University Hospital Limerick, or from an individual’s home on occasion, to Dublin, we will collect the sample and meet with a colleague from Blood Bike Dublin at Portlaiose, so they can complete the transfer. We also meet up with colleagues transferring samples to Cork and Galway.”
So next time you see an emergency bike on the road, take a closer look as it might just be a Blood Bike helping to save a life, and remember that the rider is an unpaid volunteer, working to professional standards and providing a vital service to the HSE – It’s what they do. You can get further information by logging on to