IMMUNOGLOBULIN M (IgM):  Tom Choi, President South West Division, United Blood Services of Arizona

Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
(All Rights Reserved)


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Tom Choi made the following statement several times in the course of his interview, which literally took my breath away: “There is no substitute for human blood.”  Think about that fact for a minute. Just sit with it and think about it…then consider these numbers. Only 3-5% of our population donates blood. Of that small number of donors much of that blood, for various reasons, cannot be used. The amount of usable blood collected is much less than the 3-5% donated. Amid those startling numbers, about 10-20% of our population will need blood at some point.  The 10-20% could be your mother, son, daughter or maybe even your father.  Now I am not a mathematician but those numbers just simply do not balance no matter how I do the math.  Many days I drive across the Valley when at some point I am caught in traffic as a result of a car or motorcycle accident. Many of those people need the blood that Tom and his team work every day to make possible.

The topic of blood is very personal to me because my father has lymphoma (blood cancer). My Dad has been blessed with the gift of lifesaving blood for several blood transfusions. He has also had apheresis treatment.  I recall sitting by my father’s side while he was hooked up to a machine that basically took his blood out of one arm, separated the plasma from his blood and then pumped the remaining blood back into his other arm. The device sounded like a washing machine and we all marveled as my we sat and waited. My dad has been living with lymphoma for ten years now in part because of the incredible kindness and generosity of others who understood that to donate blood is to literally save a life.  Thank you, donors whoever you are, for saving my father’s life and allowing us to enjoy one another for a decade and counting.

Tom is very clear about his mission.  His mission is to get lifesaving blood into the bodies of those that desperately need it like my dad. United Blood Services is in the business of saving lives.

WebPT invites the United Blood Services of Arizona to their offices regularly to allow those employees that choose to be part of the 3-5% to step up to save the 10-20%.

I don’t need to say anything else about the WebPT team. The fact that the leadership of WebPT understands how imperative blood donations are is demonstrated by their incredible staff who repeatedly step up to take that belief into action.

FEARLESS INTERVIEW

 

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TOM ABOUT BEING FEARLESS?

1. Do Work that Fascinates You

The business of getting blood into the bodies of those that need it is a complicated and imperative endeavor. The human body itself is a marvel. Tom did not expect to work for a business such as United Blood Services of Arizona. He admits though that every day he carries the load of what he is charged to do in order to be successful. He is fascinated by the journey. He finds himself overwhelmingly compelled to solve a problem that combines the mystery of the human body and the nobility of a worthwhile profession not only as a humanitarian but as a business man.

2. It’s a Numbers Game

When the numbers do not line up highlights the fact that success in this endeavor is truly a numbers game. The more people donate blood directly increases the availability of usable blood. The goal is to compel more people to donate blood so that the people who donate is equal to or greater than those that need it. That means that one has to do all they can to increase the number of opportunities for donation to as many people as possible.

3. Partnership is a Prerequisite

Partnering with companies like WebPT is not a choice for UBSAZ it is an absolute necessity. They must maintain great relationships with the companies who step up to close that number gap because if they don’t then people like my dad will not get the blood they need to survive.  It is as simple as that. Being minty is a way of life for USBAZ.

4. Stay Ahead of the Avalanche

Most people do not like needles so it is essential that the person taking the blood is good to the person giving the blood so that they have the very best experience possible so that they feel comfortable to donate as often as possible. Repeat givers are a significant resource and greatly needed. People having a positive experience to share also attracts other donors to step up. Attraction is what keeps UBSAZ just ahead of the avalanche of need.

5. Save a Life

Tom talks about the feeling he witnesses as people complete their donation.  There is nothing more powerful than knowing you just took an action that could save a life.  The fear of needles is nothing compared to the magnitude of the action.

Tom admits that sometimes he sits straight up in bed with the weight of the numbers game he plays every day, shocking him awake. However, in the next breath he knows that he has to find solutions to the problems that his business is faced with or people die. He must put his fears aside and keep stepping up to conquer the constant threat that he will fail in his mission to deliver lifesaving blood to those that need it. The work he does is just that important.

Thank you so much­­­­­ Tom for choosing to be the kind of leader that literally saves lives every day and for taking time out for this interview!

ILLUSTRATIONS STORY

Tom’s statement “There is no substitute for human blood.” has rung in my ears since I sat in his office and I listened to him say the words.  At this time blood cannot be made in a laboratory. It is simply remarkable that we have been able to figure out how to walk on the moon and we have not yet found a way to manufacture human blood.

Briefly, blood is made up of red and white blood cells platelets and plasma. There are also four different types of Blood (O, A, B and AB) that are separated into Rh Negative and positive types. Each component of our blood is a very complicated biochemical work of genius.

As I told your earlier the topic of human blood is very personal for me and my family because my father has been living with blood cancer for almost a decade.  More specifically, my Dad father has Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM), which is a subtype of lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma.  WM occurs in less than two percent of patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).  Patients with WM have a high level of a protein called immunoglobulin M (IgM) in their blood, which can cause hyper viscosity (thickening of the blood).

This painting a schematic view of one IgM. This is just one component of what is found in our blood. Look at how complicated this one little part is! When I studied the biochemical structure of this thing that my family and I have been counting for almost a decade, I am floored once again by the human body and how magnificent it is.

Immunoglobulin M (IgM), is the first and largest antibody to be made by the body to fight a new infection.  Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight antigens, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. The estimated normal range is 45 – 250 mg/dl. When we discovered that my Dad had Lymphoma, his count was over 9000.  (So basically, his blood was like peanut butter.)

This tiny cell that is in our bodies is only one very small part of a miracle that makes us human beings. This biochemical feat of nature is what is over produced in my father’s body and it is the reason he has been the benefactor of the kindness of blood donors.

There are MANY reasons why we should all get in line to donate blood. This tiny little biochemical wonder is just one of them.

The hands in this piece signify the people stepping up to give the gift of life.

 

Work was shown at the The Art of Fearlessly Giving Back I – Web PT opening on May 18, 2018 at The Arizona Science Center.

Thank you to the 2018 Fearless Partners:
11Eleven Consulting|Peg QuinnThe AZ Consortium for the Arts|Charity Charms|Bob Diercksmeier of RJD Creative

 


Entrepreneurs and inspiring stories of all kinds are Fearlessly Deliver’s muse and focus. As an artist, a business woman and a visual journalist Michelle Micalizzi paints with a purpose. The Fearless Art Projects are collaborative social practice art engagements that connect art + business + community.

The ART OF FEARLESSLY GIVING BACK (AoFGB) is a community awareness series that focuses on the mission of select charitable organizations and the social responsible companies and philanthropic individuals that support them.

 

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