September has been a pretty good month so far. I'll explain. I signed up to be a Blood Biker last year, which in case you don't know is a volunteer post in which you give up at least two nights a month to be on call to collect blood or tissue samples from a hospital to deliver to another hospital for an emergency situation. A serious accident, someone who needs blood or tissue examining so that they can get the right diagnosis and treatment asap - like immediately. Blood bikers honestly do save lives which is why we get out of a warm bed and shake ourselves down even though it's actually pretty tough to do so at the time. Hats off to all my colleagues and their families around the country who do so and who often hold down day jobs at the same time.
Signing up was simple enough, an observed ride by one of their qualified riders to check I wouldn't spill any blood (my own or that being carried), some classroom training, some kit, a familiarisation ride and I was on my way. The blood bikes run in regions so there is a whole network servicing the UK, with hand-off sites should any samples or blood need to go out of the local area. My own area covering Surrey and South East London (SERVSSL) also collect and deliver donated breast milk for little babes on neo natal wards, perhaps they've been born premature or are poorly for other reasons.
Keep abreast of the facts
As you probably know, breast milk is much, much better than formula and gives a baby a much better chance of survival at this critical time in their lives. In fact, the benefits are huge - a decreased rate of late-onset sepsis, necrotizing enterocolitis, retinopathy of prematurity (which can cause loss of vision) and fewer re-hospitalisations in the first year of life. I heard a figure of a tenfold increase in chances of survival in some cases. In addition, beyond this first year, they have lower rates of metabolic syndrome, blood pressure and lipoprotein levels and less insulin resistance when they reach adolescence, compared to premature infants receiving formula. Breast really is best and the gift donors give carries on throughout the life of that little individual. Awesome.
IAM .. what IAM
So one thing that my local region request is that you are IAM (advanced rider) qualified. Or, if not already, that you get qualified within a year. The way IAM run is there are local groups who run observed rides and assign mentors to get you up to standard. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make many of the observed rides and my request for a mentor didn't get answered. Not a great start last year. In addition my club was big and the observers many so there were quite a few differences in teaching styles and content. It makes for following the process exactly not quite so black and white and that's important when you don't know who your examiner is and what they want to see. So a year passed and I was still not qualified. This meant I could not take out a liveried blood bike (which is much more visible than your own) or take up any of the milk runs which happen in the day.
Running with Blood
Being just a little full of myself I posted on our local Blood Bike forum my success and signed up for some nights duties. The guys and girls are so supportive, was great to have their congratulations. I found out they needed help the following weekend at a local fundraiser, a pretty big event in Reigate, the 5k, 10k and half marathon races. I thought I would just go along in the kit and drum up support but what actually happened was much more.
Upshot was, I found myself on a liveried bike leading the 10k around the town and into the country lanes. Police riders started off in front but they peeled off pretty quickly and left myself and my colleague Steve to keep a safe distance from the front runners and guide the pack behind, always being in their sights but never so close as to slow them down. What a privilege that was and what a unique experience! To look in the mirror and see hundreds of sweaty people with determined looks on their faces trying to catch up to you... for a moment I felt like a character in a zombie apocalypse film. But I soon regained my senses, after all Zombies can't run...
Now, as anyone who's ridden with me knows, I get lost in car parks and I usually favour housing estates to any kind of other road actually going somewhere so there was a chance of losing this crowd of a couple of thousand and taking them all off to the local chip shop. But I used my best memory techniques (pub landmarks) and am glad to say we got them safely around and back to the park for the finish line. I uploaded a video here of what I'm still really proud of doing for the service: You Tube.
Help is at your hand
The day was a good one for SERVSSL - we raised awareness and some pounds and were invited back next year. In addition I got to speak to our Chairman about doing some milk runs and hope to get my own liveried bike to look after soon. I'm really looking forward to the milk runs - knowing as I do the value of this stuff with little babes in my own family and being so grateful for the women that donate. Well done ladies.
So what's the existential part of all this? Well, events of the month have helped me reflect on how things can domino and how there are always opportunities out there to help people if you look for them. Pushing yourself to achieve something, putting yourself out for others will always bring things back to you in ways you can't actually foresee at the time. That's the beauty of life and the universe, the unpredictable great adventure. To remain in your comfort zone, to stick to routine, to dwell on internal dialogue, to see only the negatives will cause you to go where you look. The world is a much more colourful and interesting place outside your zone and when viewed from the perspective of others. There is something else as well that will kick in - the Law of Reciprocity. Not that you should go out and look to have a good deed reciprocated - however you can be sure it will be - but not in any way you may imagine. There's science behind that too. For another time. Be excellent to one another.
Each additional 10 ml (0.3 fl oz) [of breaastmilk] a day,per kg (2.2 lb) of a baby’s weight, reduces the risk of sepsis by 19% - https://www.medela.com