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Hospital laboratory to be named in memory of Blood Bikes Volunteer

28 May 2019

Russell Curwen

The parents of a Blood Bikes volunteer, who died after a road incident, say they are touched that a new laboratory run by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) is to be named in their son’s honour.

Pat and Ken Curwen from Endmoor near Kendal will be guests of honour at the naming ceremony of the ‘Russell Curwen Blood Sciences Laboratory’ on Friday, May 31, at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI).

Russell, 49, an adventurous, friendly and fun-loving motorbike enthusiast, delivered blood to UHMBT sites on a regular basis. He was well liked by Trust staff and was a passionate supporter of the Blood Bikes charity.

Russell on his Blood Bike

Russell’s sister, Susan Fiddler, his brother Philip Curwen, Blood Bikes charity representatives, UHMBT’s CEO, former colleagues, employees of UHMBT and numerous other friends and family members will also be in attendance at the naming ceremony.

Russell, who was delivering blood on the night of the incident on Caton Road in Lancaster, died on May 5, 2018. Members of the Trust’s Pathology team and the executive board felt it would be a fitting tribute to name the blood sciences laboratory in his memory.

Ken said: “In my mind, the reason the building is being named after Russell is not because of his job or his volunteering, but because people knew and liked him; I am pleased about that.

Pat and Ken Curwen

“Pat and I would like to thank everyone who did their very best to help Russell on that fateful night including the paramedics, Air Ambulance and the doctors and nurses from Sharoe Green Unit at the Royal Preston Hospital.

“Losing Russell has been very hard for us. I used to speak to him every day. When he came home from work he would always say: “Hello father” and “hello mother” with a “v” instead of a “th” and a funny voice. He always had a big smile on his face. He was a joker, like me.

Russell with Pat

“Russell was given the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for his work with the Blood Bikes charity. Years ago I was given a long-service award for volunteering with St John Ambulance for 25 years. Russell always used to joke that I only had a long service award but his was from the Queen. We used to have a great laugh about that. I miss having a laugh with him.”

Pat said: “We are chuffed with what the hospital is doing but we’d sooner have Russell back, if we could.”

Russell lived with Pat and Ken at the family home in Endmoor and he worked for a medical devices company in Blackburn.

Pat and Ken have also overseen the installation of a memorial bench in Endmoor village and one of the Blood Bikes has been named after Russell.

Janet Eglin, a Technical Services Manager in Biochemistry for UHMBT and motorbike enthusiast, said: “Our teams in Pathology have a great deal of interaction with the Blood Bikes volunteers so we saw Russell a lot and were very upset when he died.

“He was bringing blood samples to my team on the day it happened. That really struck home for us. That is why I thought it was appropriate that the laboratory was named after him.”

The Blood Sciences building was originally built as an operating theatre and it housed medical records before it was completely remodelled as a state-of-the-art pathology laboratory.

A view of the interior of the Blood Sciences Laboratory

UHMBT’s Blood Sciences team handles approximately eight million blood tests in a year and tests around 3,000 samples per day.

The new laboratory has the latest technology and can handle tests in a fast and efficient manner. This means patients get their results sooner and treatment can be arranged quicker.

Janet said: “It’s a completely new development. Our team worked closely with the architects and our Estates Department and it is now an amazing laboratory. Everyone who has visited it has been very envious.”

Phil Woodford, Associate director of corporate Affairs for UHMBT, said: “On behalf of the Trust, we are delighted to be welcoming Russell’s family to the RLI as our VIP guests.

“I knew Russ fairly well and we spent many hours talking about which routes we would take to bike around the world one day. I will do it once I retire and I hope Russ will be looking down on me too.”

Russell Norman, Associate Director of Operations for UHMBT, said: “It is a fitting tribute to Russell that our new laboratory is to be named after him.

“We are extremely grateful to Russell for the volunteering that he did with the Blood Bikes service and are glad to be honouring him in this way.”

Paul Brooks, who recently retired as Chairman and Trustee of Blood Bikes Lancs and Lakes, said: “We are pleased that the laboratory is to be named after Russell. He was passionate about our charity. We miss him greatly and will always honour his memory.”

Blood Bikes volunteers

Paul and the new Blood Bikes North West Chairman, Simon Hanson, will both speak about Russell and the charity at the event on May 31.

On the anniversary of Russell’s death on May 5, 2019, Blood Bikers and motorbike enthusiasts rode out from Caton Road in Lancaster to Kirkby Lonsdale to remember him. When Russell’s funeral was held, more than 500 bikers from across the UK rode behind the cortege as a mark of respect. Hospital staff and residents lined the streets as the cortege passed by.

A church in Southern Ireland, which has an annual memorial mass for fallen bikers, has also honoured Russell by producing special candles bearing his name and photograph. One of these candles was transported by bikers all the way from Ireland to Pat and Ken’s home. The candle travelled in the captain’s cabin on the ferry from Ireland and now has pride of place on Pat and Ken’s mantelpiece.

Ken added: “I was in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary one time and Russell was with me.

“As we walked along the corridor all the nurses were calling out to him. They all knew him and loved him. I thought, I don’t know what he’s got but I wish I had some of that! Russell is gone but not forgotten.”