Saving sight – on motorbikes
The Lions Eye Donation Service (LEDS) continues helping restore sight to thousands undergoing corneal transplants with Bloodbikes on the road.
LEDS has a team of donor coordinators who manage the entire donation service for Victoria, as well as providing tissue to other parts of Australia and New Zealand.
“They discuss consent with donor families, perform recovery of the eye, then bring the valuable gift back to LEDS to evaluate, preserve and then prepare the cornea for transplant,” says LEDS Quality Manager, Bronwyn Cohen.
It’s a service they’ve been providing for 30 years, but in 2022 it was time for a rethink, when Donor Coordinators like Prue Armstrong were finding themselves increasingly driving all over Victoria to drop off donor tissue at hospitals.
The team wanted to focus their time on the crucial donor coordination work, and Bronwyn looked for a medical transport service that could help ease the burden while increasing the number of vital tissue deliveries.
Enter Bloodbikes. “It’s saved so much of our coordinators’ time, and they can be here doing what they do best,” Bronwyn says. “We’re increasing the size of the team that saves sight.”
Here to help
Bloodbikes are a group of volunteer motorcyclists who transport blood and medical supplies, free of charge, to help free up funds for health services.
Inspired by the Bloodbikes UK and Ireland, Peter Davis founded the Australian organisation in Brisbane in 2019.
Now they have more than 500 volunteers across Australia making thousands of trips for over 50 healthcare providers, including LEDS.
Rob Chrisomalidis is the Victorian Coordinator of Bloodbikes Australia. When he became a volunteer four years ago, no one was using their services in Victoria.
“Now, we’ve got over 70 qualified volunteers who pay for their own fuel and bike maintenance and only want the satisfaction of helping,” he says.
“Some weeks we do up to six deliveries for LEDS. They might be small in size but are big in what they accomplish.”
And he and his team always have the recipient in mind: “I can’t imagine the feeling of waking up from an operation and being able to see better – it’s life changing.”
In safe hands
Professor Mark Daniell, Head of Corneal Research at CERA and Head of Corneal Service at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, says eye and tissue donation is “a priceless gift that makes a lasting impact.”
“With the Bloodbikes on board, I know this precious cargo is always in safe hands on the homeward stretch towards potentially sight-saving surgery.”