Blog of Bloodworks Northwest

Paying it Forward with Tom Newman - Bloodworks 101 (S1 E1)

Tom Newman is a courier for Seattle-based Bloodworks Northwest. In this episode of the monthly podcast, Bloodworks 101, Newman explains why he’d do this job whether they paid him or not. Tom delivers blood products from Bloodworks Northwest’s transit center in Georgetown (on Seattle’s South side) to hospitals and blood drives from the Canadian border to Southern Oregon and just about everywhere in Western Washington. He drives hundreds of miles a day in all kinds of traffic but wait til you hear how Tom got started and why. Newman told host John Yeager all about it on this premiere episode of Bloodworks 101 entitled “Paying in Forward with Tom Newman.”

Listen below or read on for a full transcript.


Tom: So, they just had to keep transfusing her, keep transfusing her and keep transfusing her over and over and over again. And that blood came from Bloodworks. Without the work that Bloodworks did, she absolutely 100% would have died.

John: Hi, I’m John Yeager and this is “Bloodwork’s 101.” It’s a monthly podcast produced by Bloodworks Northwest, a Seattle based non-profit providing blood and blood products to almost 100 hospitals across the Pacific Northwest thanks to close to 250,000 generous donors and volunteers. More than a thousand people work and volunteer for Bloodworks Northwest, including world-class scientists at the Bloodworks Northwest Research Institute, the Washington Center for Bleeding Disorders as well as phlebotomists, those are the folks who draw your blood, at our donation centers and bloodmobiles. The idea behind this podcast, “Bloodworks 101,” is to open the door each month to some of the incredible and inspirational stories here at Bloodworks Northwest that we hear about every single day.

Ready? Here we go today. Today you’re going to meet Seattle’s Tom Newman. He’s a courier who delivers blood products from our transit base in Georgetown to hospitals and blood drives from Oregon to near the Canadian border just about everywhere in Western Washington. It’s Tom’s job to know the roads around here with his precious cargo on board, he drives hundreds of miles a day. He’s a fascinating guy to spend any time with. He loves to talk, but wait until you hear how he got started with Bloodworks and why. Recently I got a chance to ride along with Tom on his route. Let’s just call this one “Paying it Forward with Tom Newman.” Good morning, Tom Newman.

Tom: Good morning, John Yeager. Good morning, John Yeager. Is that better? Is that good for your sound levels? So, we are at our Georgetown transportation center, which is where we do all our vehicle maintenance. And where we have three or four mobiles are based out of here. And we’re going to leave here and we’re going to go up to Everett, to the Everett Donor Center. We’re going to pick up their blood. And then from there, we’ll go to the Linwood Donor Center. And then from there, we go to the North Seattle Donor Center and then we’ll pick up mobile two, which is in downtown Seattle. And then we’ll head to Renton for a drop off at manufacturing.

John: You never know from day to day where you’re going to be going?

Tom: Correct. We go to Portland twice a day. I normally go to Portland in the afternoon on Sundays. I pretty much know that’s going to be every single week.

John: That’s sort of fun when you think about it. I mean, you don’t really know from day to day where you’re going to be, so it’s not like there’s a routine. You have certain places that you always go but there is variety throughout the week.

Tom: Very much so, very much so. And it’s a real crapshoot because sometimes you get stuck with really not fun routes to do. For example, this first route is really not fun. Everett to Linwood to North Seattle is just up and down I-5, the middle of the day, the traffic’s terrible, but it’s still pretty. I mean, it’s still pretty great because the job itself is pretty great. But it kind of pales in comparison to being able to go out to Port Townsend and Port Angeles because the drive out there is so nice. It’s driving over both bridges, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the Hood Canal Bridge. It’s s just beautiful out there. And sometimes you get to see deer or something.

We have a run that goes out twice a week. It goes out to Whidbey Island and that one is the best route we have because you go up to Mukilteo, you get to take the ferry. So, that’s really great. Yeah. You drive through Whidby Island, which is really beautiful, and you get to see some cool things. There’s a bison farm up there or a bison ranch. And so, that’s really cool. I mean, there are American Buffalo, giant American Buffalo right next to the road. And you get to have lunch at Deception Pass, which is, I mean, that’s some people’s vacation day, and you get to see really interesting things. So, you get to go up in Columbia Center, you get to go in the federal building, you get to go…the other day, I went to the Northwest and…wait, can’t remember what the place was, but it was a mosque. And so, that was really cool because I had never actually been in a mosque before.

John: So, from one day to the next it could be a bison ranch or a mosque or the top of a skyscraper in downtown Seattle?

Tom: Yeah. It really could. Yeah. An eight-hour shift on those, six of those hours will be spent in traffic on the freeway driving or in some cases not driving because the traffic is stopped.

John: Look at what we’re dealing with right now. We’re in the carpool lane, but it’s still bumper to bumper, I-5 North from West Seattle Bridge to downtown. And those are the kinds of…some days, I would imagine that’s most of your day, just stop and go.

Tom: This is normal. This is 100% normal. The one advantage that we get is the carpool lane, which our fantastic friend, Juan Cotto [SP], helped arrange for us because he knows all those politicos down in Olympia. It has saved us hours and hours and hours of time getting blood back to manufacturing. And that’s the super key. Things get a little less effective the older they are. So, platelets start to degrade immediately. As soon as they’re donated, they start to degrade.

John: They’re only good for five days, right?

Tom: And they’re only good for a few days anyways.

John: And that could save somebody’s life.

Tom: And that can save somebody’s life. And if that means that we get back, you know, if we can get back half an hour or an hour earlier than originally thought because we were able to use the carpool lane that might end up making a huge difference later on down the line to somebody. I don’t know who and I’ll never know the answer, you know, who’s going to benefit from the blood I have in the back of the truck or the plasma or the platelets or whatever I have in the back. I’m never going to know who benefits from that, but just the idea that the sooner I can get it there, the more effective it will be. That’s pretty cool.

John: You’re listening to “Bloodworks 101,” a monthly podcast produced by Bloodworks Northwest. We’ll be back in a moment.

Female: This edition of “Bloodworks 101” is sponsored by Ferris-Turney General Contractors, providing excellence in process and product on high-quality commercial tenant improvement and general construction services since 1997. Visit

John: This is “Bloodworks 101” produced by Bloodworks Northwest. I’m John Yeager, your host. Before we get back to my ride with courier, Tom Newman, I thought you’d be interested in a tip Tom wanted me to share with you for how to get around stop-and-go rush hour traffic. Tom says try using the right lane instead of the left or the passing lane. He says the logic there is that cars are always coming on and leaving the right lane. And therefore, there’s more space in that lane to move up just a little bit and go a little faster. I was skeptical at first, but then I thought, well, the guy spends a lot more time in heavy traffic than I do. So, I tried it. And you know what? It works. Now back to “Paying it Forward with Tom Newman.” All right. So, let’s go into the why for Tom Newman. This all started with your wife.

Tom: So, my wife was a nurse up at Swedish, and she was on her way to work in the operating room, riding her scooter and halfway between home and work, she got hit by a van and that was 12 years ago. And she had all sorts of injuries, just demolished a couple of ribs, compound double fracture in her right leg, collapsed a lung, ripped her liver in half, destroyed a kidney, destroyed her gallbladder, punctured one lung, pretty bad ringing of her bell. She got a real bad conk on the noggin there and was taken to Harbor View where she ended up in 2 emergency surgeries, both on the same day, and used over 100 units, components of blood product. So, that’s some combination of red blood cells, whole blood, plasma, and platelets.

That’s a lot. I mean, a normal trauma case would use 40 or 50. And because her liver was ripped in half, and the liver is the thing that does the primary cleaning of the blood, she just bled a huge amount internally. And so, they just had to keep transfusing her, keep transfusing, keep transfusing her over and over and over again. And that blood came from Bloodworks, which was at the time out of Puget Sound Blood Center. But without the work that Bloodworks did, she absolutely 100% would have died.

John: So, this is your way to pay it forward?

Tom: Yeah. So, we were both blood donors before that. And then afterwards, we started volunteering, she in development and I started volunteering and transportation and in blood drives. And so, I would do the registration at blood drives and then once or twice a week would volunteer and drive around to some of our labs and do some pick-ups and drop-offs of samples and blood supplies and things like that. And then my wife started doing registrations at blood drives as well.

And then a couple of years ago, I was retired and she kind of kicked me out of the house and said, “I’m tired of having you around the house all the time. You need to go get a job, this volunteer thing isn’t cutting it because you’re not gone long enough.” And so, I immediately thought, well, I’ll just go work for the blood center. And so now I do as a job what I kind of did as a volunteer earlier. And I love it. I mean, driving in traffic is terrible, but having a truck full of blood products that I’m delivering to a hospital or that I have just picked up donations from a blood center and I’m bringing it back to manufacturing, that more than makes up for the awfulness of having to sit in traffic all the time. It more than makes up for getting cutoff by jerks in cars. It more than makes up for all the times I’ve had to be late somewhere because I didn’t get off work on time because there was an accident somewhere and I got stuck on the freeway and etc., etc., etc. It more than makes up for that.

I mean, don’t tell anybody this, don’t tell my bosses, but they could pay me nothing and I would still do this job. We are the blood bank for pretty much all of Western Washington and most of Western Oregon. It doesn’t say VCR parts on the side. It doesn’t say Jimbo’s Beeper Emporium. This is an important vehicle. This has important things in the back. And we’re on an important mission. I want us to have good product on time that people know they can rely on, that hospitals know they can rely on, the nurses know that, “Okay, I know my blood is going to be here that I can give this patient on the operating table.” It’s going to be here on time. And that’s really important to me.

John: And like you said, you’d do it for free?

Tom: I absolutely would do it for free. Yeah. They did me a huge service years ago and I want to, you know, give a little back. I can’t repay them. You know, you can’t repay somebody for a life, not unless you’re in some kind of, you know, superhero movie or something like that, but you can do what you can do.

John: Well, that’s it for today’s edition of “Bloodworks 101.” If you like what you hear, please subscribe to “Bloodworks 101.” Or if you have an idea for an amazing story that we should follow up on, contact us at I’m your host, John Yeager. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

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August 28, 2020 11:50AM

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