Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates 10 year anniversary amid Covid-19 efforts

NBB member Jon with Caitlin at the Norfolk Show in 2016.

NBB member Jon with Caitlin at the Norfolk Show in 2016. - Credit: Norfolk Blood Bikes

A charity that delivers life-saving service and is playing a vital role in supporting the region's efforts in fighting Covid-19 is celebrating its 10 year anniversary.

The Norfolk Blood Bikes (NBB), formerly SERV Norfolk, was set up in 2011 and is run by a team of  volunteers who work tirelessly to provide a rapid response medical transport service, saving lives in the process.

Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates its 10 year anniversary on Monday, February 15.

Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates its 10 year anniversary on Monday, February 15. - Credit: Norfolk Blood Bikes

The team, which is made up of controllers, riders, drivers and fundraisers, deliver blood, vaccines, donated breast milk and other urgent medical items to NHS hospitals in Norfolk, the East Anglian Air Ambulance and regional milk banks at no cost to the NHS, relying solely on donations to keep them on the road.

Keith Grisedale of NBB said: "Every night of the year, daytime, weekends and bank holidays there is always a team on standby from home, waiting for the call to come in.

Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates its 10 year anniversary on Monday, February 15.

Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates its 10 year anniversary on Monday, February 15. Pictured: Member Tony at Hearts Milk Bank. - Credit: Norfolk Blood Bikes

"No matter what the weather is they will always turn out, knowing that there’s a patient in hospital or a poorly baby having the worst time of their lives.

"By delivering the life-saving products, what they do, can and does save lives."

The dedicated team continued throughout the pandemic despite "significant" staff shortages as a result of members self-isolating and cancelled fundraising activities.

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They were given the option of declining to carry Covid-19 samples but the charity said it felt compelled to stand by its motto "we'll go, no matter what," in support of NHS staff.

Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates its 10 year anniversary on Monday, February 15.

Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates its 10 year anniversary on Monday, February 15. - Credit: Norfolk Blood Bikes

Mr Grisedale reflected on the work over the years after the charity was formed on February 15, 2011 following an inaugural committee meeting.

He said: "It wasn’t easy in the beginning, there was no money in the bank. Two bikes were needed plus running costs."

To get them in gear, fundraising efforts were launched which included a 900 mile 'East to West' ride from East Point in Lowestoft to Land’s End in 24 hours which raised £7,000, and committee members loaned funds to buy two second-hand bikes.

Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates its 10 year anniversary on Monday, February 15.

Norfolk Blood Bikes celebrates its 10 year anniversary on Monday, February 15. - Credit: Norfolk Blood Bikes

Mr Grisedale said: "On October 15 they went live with a run for the QEH and the following month, the NNUH and JPUH went live.

"By the end of March 2012, they had carried out 82 callouts.

"The service continued to grow year on year and so did the fleet to its present size of 12 bikes and four cars."

The Norfolk blood biker said members never know who their patients are but highlighted the occasions where they had been made aware of saving someone's life.

He added: "One was a premature baby, Caitlin, born at 23 weeks, weighing less than a 1lb and fitting in the palm of her mother’s hand.

"After four weeks of fighting for survival, her tiny body started to shut down, and her parents were told to prepare for the worst.

Caitlin was born at 23 weeks.

Caitlin was born at 23 weeks. - Credit: Norfolk Blood Bikes

"As a last resort, doctors would try blood transfusions - it worked.

"NBB transported the blood which saved her life."

The charity said her parents told them she would not have survived without their intervention and that she has now grown into a healthy little girl.

NBB said her parents told them Caitlin would not have survived without their intervention and that she has now grown into...

NBB said her parents told them Caitlin would not have survived without their intervention and that she has now grown into a healthy little girl. - Credit: Norfolk Blood Bikes

They have carried out more than 10,700 tasks to date, which includes 1,439 Covid tasks.

Mr Grisedale said: "When lockdown started, our normal tasks lessened for about two weeks as the NHS paused elective treatments.

"But because a lot of our tasks are associated with emergencies, the arrival of poorly babies, and sample testing, this lull soon passed and we are now busier than we have ever been.

"Before and during the pandemic we have never failed to complete a task requested of us by the NHS, the air ambulance, and the human milk banks."

The number of hospitals now being serviced by them has gone from three to nine, with the addition of six regional smaller hospitals in the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation trust.

To charity has an operating cost of £4,000 per month, to support the service visit its website on norfolkbloodbikes.org.uk