Devon

Volunteer bikers transport donor breast milk for NHS

  • 16 December 2010
  • From the section Devon
Devon Freewheelers
Daniel Lavery set up the charity after his wife needed a blood transfusion

A South West motorcycle charity has started carrying urgent donor breast milk to neonatal units for premature babies.

Devon Freewheelers already transports emergency blood stocks across Devon and Cornwall for the NHS.

The group of 19 volunteers, which provides an out-of hours service, was first set up in 2008.

Previously the NHS had to use taxis and air ambulances to provide 24-hour cover, costing it thousands of pounds.

Similar services to Devon Freewheelers have operated elsewhere in the country for many years, but not in the South West.

Daniel Lavery founded Devon Freewheelers after his wife went into premature labour and needed a blood transfusion.

"I thought I'd offer my support, but when I made some inquiries I discovered there was nothing there - no cover at all for Devon and Cornwall," Mr Lavery said.

Michelle Halsey and baby
Breast milk helps boost the immune systems of premature babies who are vulnerable to infection

Karen Read, the infant feeding coordinator from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital's neonatal unit, said the service provided by Devon Freewheelers was vital.

"Donor breast milk is essential to ensure these tiny babies get the optimum nutrition to grow and for their immune systems in the very early days when they're very vulnerable to infection," she told BBC News.

Breast milk donor Michelle Halsey said it was good to help mothers with premature babies.

"I produce a lot of milk... but I can see on the unit how many mums are really struggling," she said.

"It's quite nice to be able to help."

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