August 2020 Features

Couple Finds Success Amid Cancer, COVID-19

For one valley couple, to say the past several months have been exhausting, anxiety-inducing and downright scary at times for the entire world would be an understatement.

“Our daughter, Mackenzie, was due to get married in Rocky Point this past spring right after her fiancée, Syna Daudfar, graduated from medical school,” says Mary Purkiss. “Obviously, plans had to change, times two.”

Daudfar, as so many graduates of all ages did, celebrated his medical school completion over Zoom. And then the family, which includes Mary and Mackenzie as well as dad Ed and sons Winston and Cody, had to look at a backup plan for the wedding.

“For anyone that knows Rocky Point well, we had it planned at Mare Blu, which is the popular Italian restaurant at the end of Sandy Beach,” says Mary. “And while we are hopeful to still have a celebration there when safe, the kids still wanted to get married on the date, so we did a very small family wedding at Papago Park in April.”

The funny thing is that as stressful making those lemons into lemonade may have been; they are nothing compared to what this resilient family has overcome before.

Rewind to the year 2000. The kids were little, and Mary and Ed ran a successful business together.

“We had a group of call centers at the time,” says Ed. “We had over 500 employees, and it was approaching the holiday season, so we planned a big company party to fete the entire team. The mood was joyous, at least at the start of the evening.”

And then it happened.

By happenstance, Ed noticed a lump in Mary’s breast.

“We figured it was nothing. After all, she was only in her early 40s, far too young in our minds for anything to be really wrong,” says Ed. “Nonetheless, I urged her to get it checked out to confirm it was nothing.”

It wasn’t nothing. Mary had breast cancer. Not only that; she required a full mastectomy and immediate treatment. The family would battle the disease with Mary for years. She would undergo six total surgeries during that time. They made the decision in the midst of the battle to sell their business in order to focus on their children and healing.

“Far too much of all of our lives revolved around doctors’ offices at that time. But, it was because of those doctors’ offices we found a way to turn lemons into lemonade in a big way,” says Mary.

The couple noticed over and over how stressed nearly every single medical professional was with all the “business” of care. Everything from digital records to new technologies seemed to take doctors away from their primary goal, which was care.

“With our experience, it wasn’t long before we offered our services as paid consultants for practices, helping them navigate the wild world of rapidly changing technology and everything that went with it,” says Mary.

By 2008, with Mary’s cancer in remission, the Purkisses launched Iron Medical Systems.

“Beyond just a consulting platform, this was a cloud infrastructure, initially for the radiation and medical oncology arena, but soon expended more than we ever could have imaged,” says Ed. “So in 2009, we also launched a Managed Medical Cloud, which enables software companies that don’t have the resources or time to develop their own the ability to offer a private-labeled cloud solution to their customers.”

Along the way, the Purkisses also invested their time in helping patients as Mary had once been, primarily via fundraising and board positions with Arizona Institute for Breast Health (AIBH).

“AIBH’s mission was to provide a free second opinion service for women and their families recently diagnosed with breast cancer,” says Mary.

By 2015, the Purkisses went from counting their doctors’ appointments to counting their blessings as Iron Medical Systems counted customers from across North America until they became the largest infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider in the radiation oncology field, at the same time helping hundreds of women gain access to free second opinions on their breast cancer diagnosis.

“A lot of what we have done has been centered around technology and storing information. As a natural extension, I was heavily involved in how technology communicates information as well,” says Ed. “So much so, we decided to open another business to expand what we could do for all people, beyond the medical community.”

The business, launched in 2018, is called SMSHyperloop, and it focuses on effective text message and marketing campaigns for businesses of every shape and size.

“We’re also using this business to pay it forward amid COVID-19,” says Mary. “We’ve been so fortunate so far to only have to reschedule or reimagine events. We know we are lucky.”

As such, SMSHyperloop is working with nonprofits across Arizona and beyond on ways they can give away free text campaigns to the charities to help ease the burden of lost fundraising and communications channels.

“Our goal is to give away a million texts messages a day,” says Ed. “And, of course, to get the post-wedding celebration back on the books.”

For more, visit www.smshyperloop.com.

Written by: Alison Bailin Batz


Alison Bailin Batz is a freelance writer on interesting people, places, things – as well as all thing travel, food and drink. Her musings can be seen in more than two dozen media outlets across the Southwest. She is also a senior account executive at HMA Public Relations in Phoenix.

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