Why Severn Freewheelers?
What made you volunteer for SFW?
I knew someone who was doing his advance motorcycle training (which you need to ride for SFW) and his trainer told him about SFW. I decided to go along to one of the meetings to find out more. There were only about 20 members then and SFW only covered Gloucestershire & Worcestershire, but it sounded very interesting and everyone was passionate about it. Then, as now, they were struggling to find coordinators, so I thought, why not?
How long have you been a volunteer?
I joined in April 2012 and did my first shift in November of that year. During my first evening I had 7 calls – nowadays we regularly get over 20 a night.
What is your most memorable job or shift?
Can I have 2 please?
The first was one of my 2 emergency runs, done under blue lights. We were asked to pick up an item from Worcester Royal Infirmary and take it to The Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. My rider was just dropping off a package at Malvern Hospital when the call came in. We had just an hour to do the job, and even though we could use blues and twos, we still couldn’t break speed limits or go through red lights. We just made it – surprisingly it was “just” a bag of charcoal – used to treat overdoses or poisonings. It was quite emotional to receive a thank you call later from the hospital to say our help had contributed to saving a life.
The second was probably the most complicated trip to organise. It was on a Saturday. A man from Tewkesbury had been bitten by a bat whilst on holiday in France, and the nearest dose of rabies antidote was in Exeter. I had to contact both the Devon Freewheelers and the Bristol Freewheelers to transport it from there to Cheltenham General. It all went very well, and I gave myself a pat on the back. The following day, after I’d handed over coordinating to Di, she called me up to say that Exeter had forgotten to send the part that was stored in the fridge, so she’d had to repeat the whole job again!
What is the most difficult part of the role?
Every shift is different and each brings it’s own challenges – second guessing the next call to decide whether to tell a rider to get a coffee at the hospital or to send him home is always tricky.
How long is an average shift?
The week is split into two. One shift starts at 19:00 on Wednesday evening and finishes at about 19:00 on Saturday – however we only cover 19:00 to 07:00 on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, then 24 hours from 19:00 on Friday. The other half is from 19:00 Saturday to 07:00 Monday, plus Monday and Tuesday evenings, again 19:00 to 07:00. The longest shift occurs when Christmas Day is on a Thursday or Monday, as we cover 24 hours over weekends. (I love volunteering over Christmas though, it’s a great atmosphere and I get out of cooking the lunch)
How do you manage combining a shift with working at BPE as well?
Plenty of coffee! Sometimes I get very little sleep, but the hours don’t overlap, so at least I don’t have to juggle both jobs at the same time.
What is your go to snack/drink to get you through a night shift?
If it’s been a traumatic evening, there’s nothing to beat a small glass of red wine and a chocolate biscuit, but if I need to keep my wits about me, then tea (black no sugar) and crumpets with marmite.
What’s the best thing about SFW?
My fellow team members. We are all volunteers working together to provide a great service, and despite the lack of sleep & occasional awkward customers, everyone on the shift pulls together with a can-do attitude. My riders often comment on the thanks they get when they drop off some medication to a frail patient late at night in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain – what’s not to like about that 😊
For more information about the work Severn Freewheelers does, please visit their website:
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