Blog of Bloodworks Northwest

National Blood Donor Month & Leo Notenboom: "I'm So Fortunate to be Able to Donate, So I Do."

Leo with one of his Corgis, Walter. Photo credit: Leo Notenboom.

Leo Notenboom with one of his Corgis, Walter. Photo credit Leo Notenboom.

For National Blood Donor Month 2022, we’re highlighting one of our most dedicated – and most eclectic – platelet donors.

Leo Notenboom is so busy, he sometimes uses a tagline. “Coffee, computers, and Corgis,” he says, “and not necessarily in that order.” He is also self-employed (but was the 342nd employee at Microsoft), an avid volunteer with Washington State Animal Response Team, an amateur radio operator, and an over-200-unit blood and platelet donor.

Like many blood donors, Leo’s first donation happened when Bloodworks came to him. In his case, it was at work, with a bloodmobile, and more than 30 years ago. He can’t say why he made that first donation that day, but his wife was then a Licensed Practical Nurse, so he understood “what would happen with blood, what it was used for, why it was important, and how donations end up helping the people in need. So it just sort of fit.” And over the years, his dedication grew:

“This is one of those very easy and obvious ways for me to give back in a way that I think a lot of other people might not be able to.”

After donating whole blood a few times, Leo became a platelet donor since he had flexibility in his schedule to accommodate the longer donation time. Not one for doing anything on a small scale (he hosts the annual Pacific Northwest Corgi Party at his house every year with dozens of them in his back yard; yes, there are photos), he just completed his 105th platelet donation.

Leo teaching radio fundamentals at Washington State Animal Response Team, where he’s a volunteer. Photo credit: Leo Notenboom.

We asked Leo for his thoughts on the pandemic-era that has halted the kind of workplace blood drives that introduced him to blood donation, and he said it better than we could. “This is one of the safest environments I can think of during the pandemic to be able to do something like this. Especially now, because there aren’t any blood drives going on at the workplace, it’s that much more important for those of us who can to take that extra effort to come in, make the appointment, donate whole blood, donate platelets, whatever it is you can do. You can do it; perhaps other people can’t. And we know that there’s a huge, huge need.”

When Leo isn’t donating platelets, rescuing stricken animals from perilous situations, writing books that make technology more accessible, or managing the oldest and largest internet mailing list for Corgi lovers, Leo hosts a few of his own websites, each centered on his optimistic spirit. With names like Heroic Stories and Not All News Is Bad, Leo spends time each day scouring the internet for stories of human kindness and hope. We asked him why he strives to be so optimistic:

“It’s helped me not fall into the abyss. And the ability to share good news with others makes me feel like I’m making the world a little bit of a better for people who need that reminder.”

Leo said he didn’t know what pulled him through that bloodmobile’s door all those years ago, but we think in that statement, he found the answer. Spreading optimism, human kindness and hope is clearly in Leo’s blood. It’s why he maintains those websites, helps rescue stricken animals, and herds Corgis in an explosion of cuteness every summer. And we think it’s why he donates platelets too. Because that’s what blood and platelet donation is – hope offered when nothing else will do.

So Happy National Blood Donor Month to one and all! We’re grateful to you all every day, and stay tuned for a new episode of our podcast, Bloodworks 101, featuring Leo!

We may be a regional blood center supporting 90+ hospitals throughout the Pacific Northwest, but we’ll never pass up an opportunity to share a photo of a Corgi in flight. Photo credit: Leo Notenboom & Freddie.
January 10, 2022 7:38PM

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