Longtime hospital supporter, cancer survivor celebrated as Gala co-chair

When Darrell Lindman comes across someone or something that strikes his fancy, it can become part of his life for a long time.

Whether talking about his marriage to his wife Susan, raising their three children, his job as an attorney for Fraser Trebilcock, or his and Susan’s support of the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation, Darrell embraces people and things who bring him joy, satisfaction and contentment.

“He’s always been very studious,” said Dave Johnson, the best man at Darrell and Susan’s wedding and a friend of Darrell’s since they were youngsters in Cheboygan. “If something interests him, he’ll try to learn as much about it as he can. He’s religiously organized in the way he pursues things, and he isn’t afraid of a challenge if the end results are worthwhile.”

Darrell is a trustee emeritus on the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation board who will serve with Susan as honorary co-chairs of the Foundation’s Annual Gala that will be held at the Country Club of Lansing on October 13. The couple will preside over an event that sold out seven weeks ahead of time and is expected to have its best-ever fundraising total.

Darrell began working for Fraser Trebilcock in 1978, and by the late 80s he was serving as pension counsel for the two Lansing hospitals that would eventually merge and become what is known today as McLaren Greater Lansing. He really liked the people he interacted with at what was then called Ingham Medical Center and characterized the late hospital president and CEO Ed McRee as a “wonderful man who got to know employees by walking the hallways and talking with them.”

Darrell was very impressed with the family-like atmosphere at the hospital and in 1988 he and Susan made their first gift in support of the institution. They have made at least one gift every year since then. Darrell has also been instrumental in Fraser Trebilcock making annual donations to the Foundation for the past 31 years.

“Health care has always been very important to us,” Darrell said. “We’ve always felt it was important to have high-quality health care in the community. And if you believe in something, you should be willing to help out that organization or cause.”

Susan, who earned a minor in public health while working toward an undergraduate degree in applied arts from Central Michigan University, feels fortunate she and Darrell have been able to provide steadfast financial support to several organizations in the fields of health care and the arts.

“We can’t give to every organization we would like to support,” she said, “so we give to the ones that are most important to us.”

The BoarsHead Theater, which closed in 2009, and the Lansing Symphony Orchestra are two of the arts-related organizations whose boards Darrell has served on over the years. It was during his tenure on the BoarsHead Theater board that he got to know Lyn Zynda, a current member of the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation board and chairperson of the Annual Gala for the second consecutive year.

Zynda’s friendship with Darrell and Susan has grown steadily over time and when she asked them if they would like to serve as honorary co-chairs of this year’s Gala, they happily accepted her offer.

“I chose them because Darrell is a board member emeritus, and he and Susan support many of our events,” Zynda said. “Both of them are well-respected in the community, and I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Darrell describes the Annual Gala, which began in 2005, as a “fun night out” for a great cause. Susan adds last year was one of only two times she can remember another engagement preventing them from taking part in the themed event that includes dinner, dancing, live music and casino-style gaming, among other things.

Net proceeds from the Gala, which totaled nearly $135,000 in cash last year, will benefit the Emergency Department, Oncology Services and areas of greatest need at the hospital. The Radiation Oncology Unit, which is part of Oncology Services, is where Darrell underwent treatment in 2003 after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Darrell, who speaks highly of the care he received from the late Dr. David Debiose and his staff, quipped that the tumor that led to his diagnosis was a “50th birthday present” he noticed while golfing with his second son, Peter. One doctor initially said the lump, which was located on the upper right-hand side of his neck, might be nothing more serious than an infected saliva gland. But based on Darrell’s symptoms — the lump appeared suddenly, was not painful, and did not respond to antibiotics — Susan’s medical background led her to suspect it was cancerous.

Nonetheless, she was not prepared for the severity of the diagnosis, and the estimated 35% chance of survival that came with it. Darrell was initially staggered by what the doctors told him, but then “became my own quarterback” and focused his energy on doing whatever he “needed to do to beat this thing.”

To improve his frame of mind, he told himself cancer survival rates included populations from parts of the world where most people did not get adequate health care. Because he was going to receive some of the “best care in the world,” he figured his survival chances were much higher than the published figures.

Susan, who describes her husband as “intense, very driven and very smart,” said he appeared to be “very unemotional and detached” while he underwent his surgeries and radiation treatments. She said people were amazed he worked during most of the time he was undergoing treatment. But he later told her it was important for him to do so because he “didn’t think about his cancer” when he was working. Work was his “escape.”

Darrell’s experience as a cancer patient came during his first tenure on the Foundation’s board from 1999-2007, and he also served from 2012-14. He is extremely proud that the Chi Heart and Surgery Center was built while he was on the board, for he regards Dr. Seong Chi, who the Surgery Center is named after, as a “dear friend and wonderful man who has been very generous with the hospital.”

He and Susan are thrilled about McLaren Health Care’s plans to construct a new hospital that will consolidate the current McLaren Greater Lansing and McLaren Orthopedic Hospital campuses into one medical facility on land adjacent to Michigan State University.

“Health care has always been very near and dear to me because of my minor,” Susan said. “And of course, we got a first-hand look at things and how they work when Darrell was diagnosed with cancer. We both like to see improvement in the health care in our community, and this new project will be a huge boost for the Greater Lansing area.”

If you would like to learn more about the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation or make a donation in support of the hospital, please call 517-975-7100, email mglfoundation@mclaren.org or visit mclaren.org/lansingfoundation.