“The work we do goes unnoticed by many, but we are a band of brothers and sisters with a common purpose; we want to help out.”
Devon Freewheelers volunteer Phil Hicks is hoping to inspire others to join the Devon Blood Bikes charity, by giving an insight into a day in the life of a ‘hidden hero’.
Phil, who has been giving his time to the charity since June 2020, said: “The work we do goes unnoticed by many. We don’t do it to be noticed, we do it as we want to help out, do our bit, or whatever you want to call it.”
Russell Roe, Devon Freewheelers Deputy CEO, said: “Our volunteers are at the core of the charity. We rely on their support, giving up their time for free, to keep the Devon Blood Bikes service on the road.
“I always call our volunteers the hidden heroes, because they go about their work in the community without any fanfare, delivering blood, medical supplies and equipment, wherever needed across the county.
“We are so proud of our volunteers, and grateful for every single second of their time they give to the charity, to serve the community.
He added: “Because our volunteers play a vital part in the day-to-day operations of Devon Freewheelers, we hope that others will be inspired to join us, encouraged by Phil shining a light on the role of a volunteer.”
Retired police officer Phil, who ‘loves’ volunteering for Devon Freewheelers, was recently tasked with showing the ropes to a new supporter keen to get involved.
Phil, a Devon Freewheelers volunteer since 2020, took the new recruit on a shadow run in the Plymouth area.
The night’s run included stops at a microbiology laboratory, phlebotomy clinic, neonatal ward dialysis unit, and the possibility of driving out-of-county to Bristol’s South Mead Hospital to pick up some breast milk.
After a fleet check of the vehicle – the charity’s Citroen Nemo was earmarked for the volunteers to carry out the vital delivery and pick-up service.
Phil suggested new volunteer Jon, a serving police officer, took the wheel, saying ‘there is nothing like being thrown in at the deep end’.
Phil said: “I had a new volunteer posted with me on what we call a shadow run.
“This is when they get to know the route and how to work the computer aided despatch system (CAD) and what sort of things the controller needs to be informed of.
“As well as our normal collections and drop-offs I was informed that we may have to go to South Mead Hospital, Bristol, to pick up some breast milk.
“My brain started racing on how could we set this into our time factors.”
He added: “We did the fleet check on the vehicle, explaining things to Jon as we went along so he was happy with the procedure.
“I suggested Jon drive as there is nothing like being thrown in at the deep end."
First stop was the phlebotomy clinic for a standard pick- up, driving straight to Derriford Hospital to drop off the samples, as ‘time was critical’.
The volunteers’ next call was Yealmpton for a sample collection, taking it straight to where it needed to be, followed by stops at Ivybridge and Plympton.
“Traffic was not good so the CAD decided to send us down narrow country lanes,” said Phil. “We eventually got there and picked up one sample. I say one sample as the quantity is of no concern to us. This is someone’s sample that needs to get to Derriford and that is what we do.
“Off to Ivybridge; samples picked up then off to Plympton for a few pick-ups there.
“One surgery asked if we could do two pick-ups with one later as they had a late clinic.
“Again, the brain went into motion to work out the logistics of collections, including the breast milk collection.”
Phil, who recently passed his Blood Bike assessment added: “Next stop was St Budeaux. The traffic was dreadful.
"On the way Peter, in the control room, called me with some good news. They had arranged for a Freewheeler to pick up the breast milk from South Mead and meet us at Cullompton services.”
Volunteers Phil and Jon made the five-mile trip across the city to Derriford Hospital to drop off a bag full of samples.
“We had made great time so far so I bought the coffees and thought it was a good time to have a quick chat with Jon,” said Phil. “All I can say is his face was beaming. He was loving it as far as I could see.
“Typical copper attitude - like services’ attitude - we can do this. Throw it at us and we will get the job done.”
Coffee finished, and with no time to spare, the pair’s next call was a standard pick-up from the Plymouth Dialysis Unit, straight onto Plympton for the surgery’s requested second collection, then onto Cullompton services shortly before 9pm for the handover of breast milk from the Blood Bike Freewheeler coming from Bristol.
Phil said: “We got to Cullompton services where we met our fellow Freewheeler. Like us, he loved volunteering for the service. We had a common bond and purpose.
“Breast milk loaded safely, we set off back to Derriford. We hit Haldon Hill and the heavens opened. It was Storm Evert - wind and rain of biblical proportions.
“Jon with his police driving experience did exceptionally well in getting us back safely.
“Our first stop was to the microbiology lab, the next stop was the neonatal ward to drop-off the breast milk.
“It was now past 10pm. It was pouring down still, but we looked at each other with a look of satisfaction at what we had done and the people we had helped.”
- If you would like to find out more about volunteering for the Devon Freewheelers, call the office on 0300 800 0105.