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Special delivery: Dublin employee volunteers…on a motorcycle

April 20, 2020     

It’s 9:30 p.m. on a misty Saturday evening in Dundalk, a town in Ireland between Dublin and Belfast, when Robert Babington gets the phone call he has almost come to expect on a weekend. A maternity hospital in a neighboring city is in dire need of breast milk for a premature baby in its neonatal ward.

Robert Babington

Robert Babington has been a volunteer rider with Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes for three years. He is shown here making a brief stop in front of Shane Castle on one of his deliveries.

Babington, associate director, Global Procurement, External Manufacturing, based in Dublin, does not hesitate. He puts on his helmet, vest and other special gear and prepares for a 116-km (72-mile) motorcycle ride to South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen, the only human milk bank hospital in Ireland. He collects the supply of breast milk, a bag of about 30 bottles packed in ice, and rides 175 km (107 miles) to the outskirts of Dublin, where he hands it off to another rider who delivers it to the maternity hospital. 

By the time he returns home, Babington has logged more than 347 km (216 miles) in just under five hours – and he is ready for the next call-out.  

Babington has been making deliveries like that for the past three years, ever since joining the Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes (CCBB), a charity transportation service that utilizes volunteer motorcycle riders to pick up and deliver urgently needed blood and blood products, human tissue, human breast milk, patient files, x-rays and, more recently, COVID-19 samples. 

“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing I’m helping a local hospital and ultimately, patients, by volunteering my time through CCBB. I am grateful to help any way I can,” said Babington, a 24-year veteran rider, who was inspired to volunteer with the group after his father became ill with leukemia and needed blood on a regular basis.  

When Robert Babington picks up and delivers blood and other samples for hospitals, his rides can take him through several counties in northeastern Ireland.

When Robert Babington picks up and delivers blood and other samples for hospitals, his rides can take him through several counties in northeastern Ireland.

CCBB was formed in 2016 and has six chapters across Ireland. Babington’s chapter covers four counties in the northeastern part of the country, bordering Northern Ireland, and includes about 30 highly trained and experienced volunteer riders. When making a pickup or delivery, they use one of three customized high-powered ambulance motorcycles or one of two 4x4 vehicles for when the weather is unsuitable for motorcycles or when transporting bulkier cargo.   

 “If we didn’t provide this service, hospitals would have to either utilize their own emergency services, like ambulances, or use paid services such as taxis to transport blood and other products to and from other hospitals and laboratories,” Babington explains. “Every delivery we’re able to take on relieves the pressure on already strained ambulance crews and other transportation drivers and frees them up to help patients.” 

Riders, who are also trained in good distribution practices and first-aid, are on call from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., Monday through Friday, and around the clock on weekends and holidays. With the outbreak of COVID-19, Babington says, riders have been in demand more than ever. 

Babington has been riding motorcycles since the 1990s and currently rides a touring bike for personal use.  He is undergoing RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) training, the highest level of safety and skill training available to private motorcycle riders in Ireland.

In support of CCBB’s work related to COVID-19, the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation has donated €10,000 (about $11,000) to the organization, which will be used toward the purchase of a new motorcycle. 

Despite what can be a rigorous schedule overnight and on weekends, Babington’s incentive to continue riding is clear: “My motivation is knowing that I’m helping local hospitals and, ultimately, patients by freeing up resources to provide better health service for everyone.”  

For more information about Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes visit:

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