Cancer patient Darlene Kloeppner.

Local family celebrates Guardian Angels at Sanford Joe Lueken Cancer Center

December 2, 2019

How do you thank people who care for someone you love?

Sisters Kari Gregg and Wendy Kloeppner knew words alone couldn’t possibly express their gratitude when they saw Dr. D. Ross McBride, a radiation oncologist at the Sanford Joe Lueken Cancer Center, and his nurses go above and beyond to protect the life of their mother, Darlene Kloeppner.

Last April, Darlene, who has been battling multiple myeloma since 2005, was at the cancer center for a chemotherapy infusion. She had been tempted to skip the appointment because of neck pain, but while she was there, a nurse suggested a CT scan to identify the cause of the trouble.

Darlene agreed, but without waiting for the test results, she left to beat a late-season snowstorm. Later that day, as Darlene was settling in at home, the medical team back at the cancer center was reading her scans, and growing alarmed. On the screen, they saw a fracture in Darlene’s neck.

Dr. McBride was alerted to Darlene’s situation and knew she needed a neck brace immediately, but felt it was out of the question to have her drive back into town on the icy roads.

Instead, he jumped in his car and drove 10 miles, through the falling snow, to Darlene’s home to fit her with a brace.

“Dr. McBride and the staff potentially saved my mom’s life that night by making sure she had the neck brace,” Gregg said. “Driving to my parents’ house prevented them from venturing out in a snowstorm with horrible road conditions with a broken neck.”

The next morning, the family debated the best way to thank Dr. McBride and his team. They considered the usual things, like cards and gift certificates, but then Gregg had a better idea: a Guardian Angel gift through the Sanford Health Foundation.

“I thought, to be recognized in a professional and public sense would be more rewarding to all of them,” Gregg said.

Darlene Kloeppner and her family.

Through the Guardian Angel program, Gregg and the Kloeppners made a gift to Joe Lueken in honor of Dr. McBride, infusion nurse Tessa Schlosser and imaging tech Theresa Wilander. The three caregivers were surprised with a special recognition ceremony at the center and Guardian Angel pins.

“What we are most grateful for is that we actually have some way of showing our appreciation,” Gregg said. “They were our Guardian Angels because they really advocated for mom’s health. They were looking out for us, and they made sure my mom was safe.

“We will be forever grateful for all of them.”

See more of Darlene’s cancer journey:


Who is your Guardian Angel?

Visit sanfordhealthfoundation/guardianangel to make a gift in honor of a Sanford employee who went above and beyond for you or a loved one. Your Guardian Angel will receive a special recognition ceremony, and your gift will enhance services for future patients at Sanford Health.