The Freewheelers Emergency Voluntary Service has for the past 30 years supported the NHS across Bristol, Bath, Taunton,Somerset and Wiltshire. It costs about £110,000 a year to keep the Freewheelers organisation going, of that £45,000 is taken up buying and kitting out two new motorcycles each to replace those that the charity has worn out, most of the other costs go on petrol, servicing and operational costs. So as the new Master of The Lodge of St George I’ve decided to make my charity for the coming year the Freewheelers. We made a donation of £250 the other day see photo. One of my driving instructors is a volunteer rider for the blood bikes. Grzegorz Lepszy (Greg) decided to become a volunteer after having been a recipient of a kidney transplant. Greg wanted to give something back to pay off his debt and with his love of motorcycles and his joy of riding he put the two together.
This meant that Greg although an advanced driver now had to become an advanced rider and to attain a minimum of a silver grade to be accepted and having attained this with DSAR Devon and Somerset Advanced Riders Greg then applied to Freewheelers and after the interviewing process was completed he had to attend meetings to learn about the handling of hazardous materials and hygiene and safety during the nine month probationary period.
Riding or taking part for Freewheelers is totally voluntary and reliant upon public donations. Some family’s or charity organisations have bought complete bikes other have donated what they could to such a good cause. All the bikes have names and behind the name is the story of someone who benefited or perhaps sadly died but who relied on the selfless volunteer who gave their time riding all hours of the night and day in all weathers. They are on call out of hours including weekends and bank holidays. The bike themselves are workhorses covering an average of 18 thousand miles a year and include the BMW RT1200 Police spec, Hondas, Yamaha FJR1300, BMW F800. There are 20 bikes in total all equipped with cameras recording all the time. If the weather is too bad for a motorcycle then the volunteer can choose to use their own car and they would display a notice to say they were a blood biker on call. In an emergency they are allowed to use blue lights when authorised by the coordinator however they are not exempt from certain HWC rules like the other emergency services, so if they’re using blue lights on the motorway at 70mph it seems pointless when you have other vehicles overtaking you also the blue lights can encourage someone in front to do something silly. There are three types of jobs that they get issued with, non urgent, urgent and emergency such as taking extra blood to the scene of an accident if the ambulance /air ambulance has exhausted its supply.
It is an extraordinary responsibility to have to deliver anything from patient records to vital organs, spinal fluid, bone marrow, breast milk, surgical tools, samples for testing and other medical supplies to name but a few and some of it being time sensitive sometimes making the difference between life and death. At Henstridge where one of the air ambulances is based there is a fresh supply of blood delivered twice a day by motorcycle.
Well done to all who provide a worthwhile service either behind the scenes or on the front line.
In the photo W Bro G S Annan hands over a cheque to Greg for £250 from The Lodge of St George 3158.