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All in the family: BSN grad follows in grandparents’ footsteps


When she walks across the stage this August to receive her pin, accelerated BSN graduate Lindi Leppien will be extra thankful to not only, officially, be a nurse, but to also have a special guest in the crowd: Her 92-year-old grandfather.

Stu Smith, a retired nurse anesthetist, wasn’t a given after a medical issue last year left him with a bleed and a dire outlook after ten blood transfusions.

“We said our goodbyes – we didn’t think he’d make it. I didn’t think him attending graduation would ever happen,” Leppien said. “We came back the next morning and the bleed had stopped.

“It means a lot to me to know he’ll be able to watch me do what he did.”

The feeling is mutual.

“To be present and watch her become a nurse is one of the highlights of my life,” said Smith, who now lives in Grand Haven.  “I just wish her grandmother – who was also a nurse – could be there. She’d be just as proud as I am.”

It was her grandfather who inspired Leppien, whose first degree is in neuroscience, to take on nursing. Smith would often share stories with his granddaughter about working with patients and how important it is to be helpful. He lived by those words, helping put a Haitian-born student through medical school and bringing his professionalism and care to patients for 40 years in Flint and Saginaw.

That philosophy has clearly rubbed off on Leppien.

“When people are in the hospital, they feel helpless,” she said. “I want to be their ray of hope. I can brighten their day even if it’s only being there to listen for a few minutes.”

Getting to this point hasn’t always been easy, Leppien said. Some classes in her nursing program have been difficult, but she knows she’s coming out of it a stronger nurse.

“It’s great the confidence it has built in me,” she said. “It seems just like yesterday we were talking about check-offs. I’ve come a long way.”

And Leppien’s journey isn’t over – she already is working as a tech at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, and she hopes to continue working in pediatrics, particularly because she loves interacting with families.

Wherever her journey takes her, Smith wishes his granddaughter the best.

“I pray that whatever specialty of nursing Lindi pursues,” Smith said, “that she will end up enjoying it as much as I have.”