ANOTHER DAY IN THE LIFE OF A BLOOD BIKE VOLUNTEER
“Famous last words”?
“I’m going up to bed, Hun., see you up there” she said.
My wife almost invariably goes to bed quite early – usually between 9 and 9.30 – and since, allegedly, I snore in the most disgracefully loud and often disturbing manner …… though I’m not sure I believe this as I haven’t yet heard ANY evidence to support the claim …… I tend to stay up for around an hour or so longer in order for her to enter that wonderful phase of deep REM sleep before I seek the solace of my slumber.
“Yep, should be up soon – it all seems quiet on the phone.” I said. Famous last words?
I was Blood Bike rider duty rota’d until 0700 the following morning and it had been a quiet day. However, in true ‘best laid plans’ style, that “quiet” phone rang less than 5 minutes later …………………………
“Hi Adrian, it’s Pam, Controller for tonight. You OK?”
"Hi Pam. Yes, all good, thanks. What d’you have for me?”
“Adrian, I have an URGENT for samples from RD&E (Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital) to North Devon District Hospital (Barnstaple) – are you OK to do this?”
“Yes, of course. It’ll take me 15 minutes to get ready and get the bike out so I should be at RD&E before 10. That OK?”
“Yes, that’s fine – I’ll see if anyone in North Group can do a relay, if you like?”
“Yes, sure, that would help and might actually save some time overall. Junction 27 if they can?”
“OK, will let you know.”
Junction 27of the M5 motorway is a ‘regular’ meet & handover relay spot for riders from the East and North Teams as it’s an “off motorway” service area with a fuel station, plenty of parking and all the facilities of any other service area and, of course, the added advantage of easy on and off ramps to both carriageways of the M5 and to the A361 North Devon Link Road.
Before I headed out from home, though, I needed a warm polo neck on so I had a brief opportunity to get one from the bedroom wardrobe and let the better half know that I’d got a call out and would be back at around 23:00. This is, I guess, the hard bit for both of us. It would be SO easy to slip into the nice warm bed, snuggle under the duvet and slide gracefully into the comforting care of Morpheus but I knew when I signed up for this role that there would be good journeys; bad journeys and probably downright awful journeys – this, I felt, was definitely going to be one of the latter!
It was cold, wet and windy but at least the motorway seemed fairly quiet at this time on a Sunday evening – just the usual “heavies” and vans raising dense clouds of swirling spray through which the Honda Deauville none too gracefully ploughed.
I made it to the RD&E labs window at just about 22:00 and drew pitying looks from the two young ladies whom I thought might have been awaiting my arrival. I say “pitying looks” but it‘s more likely they were faintly amused by the dripping, dishevelled wee fella in Hi Viz bike gear peering over the edge of the counter like some old vagrant seeking alms for the poor!
“I believe you have samples for delivery to North Devon District Hospital?”
“Yes, indeed” said one of the ladies and, with a smile, she lifted a sealed, plastic bag from the box on the counter.
“And we also have one for Bristol Royal Infirmary” said the other with more than a faint hint of a warm smile on her face and, I thought, a subtle undertone of a plea in her voice!
“Ermmmm…… Bristol? What, now? Tonight?” I’m not sure exactly what tone my voice and manner might have inadvertently conveyed but it was probably a mixture of disbelief; confusion and desperation!
“Yes, it’s an urgent.” she said.
My mind was already busily working on the likely schedule and the ramifications – RD&E to NDDH if the relay couldn’t be arranged – an hour to an hour and a half with all the current speed restrictions and diversions on the link road; NDDH to BRI …… hmmmmm ……. No sat. nav. on the Deauville and BRI is one place that I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting so that could, I thought, be quite some time to complete. NDDH to BRI looked to me - at that moment in time - like it would be the very “wee, small hours” before I would even get there!!
“We’ve spoken to your controller and she said for you to give her a call when you get here” one of the young ladies said quickly – probably sensing the element of barely suppressed apprehension in my voice over the idea of a ‘journey into the unknown’ – at least as far as BRI was concerned! Yes, of course – I’d normally have simply collected whatever samples were ready for me, loaded the Daniels box and then sent a ‘clearing’ text message to my Controller once back at the bike with my paper work complete; precious cargo on board and destination confirmed but, in this case, a phone call was obviously going to be a necessity now to get a clear idea of exactly what tasking I would be getting.
“Hi Pam – it’s Adrian.”
“Hi Adrian. I’ve managed to confirm a relay with Graham of North group for the NDDH delivery – can you meet him at Junction 27 services please? You’ll have seen the request for samples to BRI! I’ve agreed with Freewheelers and arranged a meet and relay for the samples for BRI –hopefully Junction 24 BRIDGWATER services at 23:15, OK? Details are in a text message for you.”
“Yes, of course – that’s excellent! Both of those would work well for me. Thanks Pam!”
I turned back to the counter and the young ladies in their scrubs each had what looked like relieved faces and a warm smile. “Thank you SO much for this …” one of them said “… we’re really grateful you can do this!” I was immediately struck by the rich, albeit unintended, irony of that expression – the fundamental reason that I (and, I’m pretty certain, each and every one of my co-volunteers in SWBB) was doing this was by way of thanking them and their colleagues for the work they do in the frontline NHS. I think I muttered something about there being no need to thank me – maybe thank my controller for organizing and managing the logistics of two handover/relay meets – and quickly made my way back to the bike.
Back on the bike and heading out on the slick, wet city streets I slipped gratefully back into “safe mode” – no need to worry about my lack of experience of Bristol locations and lack of a sat nav now – thankfully! All I did have to do was to try to make the two scheduled handover meetings with a minimum of delay – something which was probably a bit easier said than done given the worsening weather conditions and surprisingly busy roads in the city. Motorway traffic wasn’t as light as I’d hoped it would be when I set out on the assignment and the wind and rain hadn’t eased much, if at all, so making reasonable progress on the fairly tight schedules to the two scheduled relay meets was important. Each of the 2 volunteers I was meeting – Graham from our North Group, and Maurice from Freewheelers EVS - faced outward journeys of probably an hour, minimum, to their respective hospital handover destinations and, of course, they then had their individual journeys onwards to home. Since my handovers to the two other volunteers were going to be at approximately 23:00 and 23:30 it was clear that all three of us would be late home from this “ball” and we each had to wish there was no ‘Cinderella clause’ in the contract for these particular deliveries!
As it was, I successfully completed both my assignments and saw the individual packages off onto their respective, final onward journeys before I turned south and headed for home. I reached home at around 5 minutes after midnight; garaged and secured the bike; re-connected the Optimate; shed my heavy, wet riding gear and wondered whether my two erstwhile ‘partners’ fared somewhat worse than did I in terms of finish times since they would be delivering the packages then heading to their respective homes in the ‘wee small hours’! I guess, in circumstances such as these, it’s about “sharing the pain”?
I sank gratefully into a warm,comforting bed around an hour or so after getting home – winding down from the “job” always requires some ‘down time’ for me regardless of whether or not that down time is in the “wee small hours”. I guess it’s all about the release of some ‘nervous tension’ and pressure …… not to mention the gradual dissipation of the brief but wonderful and amazing ‘legal high’ of self-satisfaction that I get from completing a task of this sort.
I’ve really no idea if I dreamt whilst I slept for what remained of that wet and windy night – or, rather, that morning – but I’m pretty sure my wife will tell you I snored as loudly as ever.
Pure nonsense, of course – I don’t snore.
Famous last words?