Patients & Visitors

My Aspirus Story

Heart surgery becomes family affair

Patient Name: Yolitz Family

When you need surgery or have a serious health condition, it can often be comforting to talk with someone who has gone through it before. Well, LaVerne Hettinga didn’t have to look very far to find someone when she underwent quadruple bypass surgery in March 2009.

The five siblings in the Yolitz family all underwent bypass surgeries at Aspirus Wausau Hospital. Holding their heart pillows from the Aspirus Heart & Vascular Institute are: Seated, from left, Dave and Herb Yolitz. Standing, from left, Lucille Merriam, Elva Rastl and LaVerne Hettinga.

Hettinga had a pretty good idea of what she was about to go through since her four brothers and sisters all had previously undergone bypass surgery. In fact, Hettinga was already pretty familiar with Aspirus Wausau Hospital because all four of her siblings also had their procedures done here.

“It did make it easier when they visited because they had all been through it and many of us had the same doctor,” Hettinga said. “We went through it as a family and we always stuck together. We would all call each other and say, ‘Did you go through this?’”

Hettinga was the last of her siblings to undergo bypass surgery. Her sister Lucille Merriam was the first, when she had a triple bypass in 1982. Big sister Elva Rastl followed when she underwent a triple bypass in 1988. Next in line were her brothers. Herb Yolitz had a triple bypass in 2006 and Dave had a quintuple bypass in 2008.

And, if that wasn’t enough, prior to their surgeries, the siblings had previously lost another brother and sister, Wilbert and Joyce, when they suffered fatal heart attacks.

“I never really thought much about this kind of stuff until my brother and sister passed away,” said the 83-year-old Hettinga. “I really started to think about it by the time the last two boys had to have surgery.”

With a family history of heart problems, it wasn’t a complete shock to anyone that some of them may encounter some sort of heart ailment, but they never expected it to be like this.

“We were always wondering who was going to be next,” Herb said. “It seems strange that we all went through the same thing, but it’s just one of those things I guess. We’re just lucky that we could have these surgeries and receive such great care here at Aspirus.”

All five siblings live in or near Wausau and they say that their experiences have actually brought them even closer. When the whole family gets together, they definitely have something to talk about.

“We see each other often and the whole family gets together at Christmas and we talk about what we went through,” Hettinga said. “We all have our good days and our bad, but we are all feeling good and we all think Aspirus is the best place. We had great care and great doctors – why would anyone go anywhere else?”

Created: Mar 31, 2010

« Return to Stories