Canon is a voluntary ‘blood biker’

12 December 2014

Ready and waiting: Canon David Wilbraham astride the motorbike he uses when transporting blood, organs, and other medical equipment at night as a volunteer blood biker

Ready and waiting: Canon David Wilbraham astride the motorbike he uses when transporting blood, organs, and other medical equipment at night as...

DURING the day, Canon David Wilbraham, a chaplain with Thames Valley Police, offers advice to police staff, counsels officers after traumatic incidents, builds links with communities, and visits police stations and patrols.

But when he goes home he replaces his dark-blue clerical shirt and collar with motorcycle leathers and waits for a phone call through the night. When the call, from a volunteer somewhere else in Oxfordshire, comes through, he climbs on to his motorbike and drives off into the night, normally to a hospital.

There he collects an unusual package: a blood donation, organ ready for transplant, or a tissue sample. Sometimes, his parcels include medical instruments, or even bottles of baby milk. Then, he couriers his precious cargo to another hospital, or, if the journey is too long, to a second biker who takes it on to its destination.

Canon Wilbraham and his fellow bikers are part of a national network of "blood bikers" who save hundreds of lives, and the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds, each year by transporting blood, organs, and other medical supplies from hospital to hospital at night and on the weekends.

Before the bikers began offering their services to the NHS, hospitals were forced to use taxis to send blood and organs to other hospitals if it was out of hours, at huge cost. But, since the first local group was founded in 1969, blood-biker organisations have multiplied across the country, and in 2013, they responded to 35,000 re- quests. Canon Wilbraham first became involved about five years ago.

"I have always been a motorcyclist," he said on Wednesday. "In fact, I was a police biker before I was ordained. I came across [the blood bikers] at a motorbike event ,and thought 'I could do this.'"

Since leaving parish ministry for police chaplaincy in 2007, Canon Wilbraham said that he could arrange his time better, and now gives up either one weekend or three weekday nights a month to the blood bikers.

The blood bikers meet at fundraising events to canvas for new volunteers, and rely entirely on donations to run the service. Canon Wilbraham said that he thought many bikers signed up in an effort to combat negative stereotypes about their hobby.

Motorcyclists account for 19 per cent of deaths on the road. Last year, 4866 bikers were seriously injured in collisions across Britain. Many would have needed transplants and medical care of the kind that the blood bikers facilitate.

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