Heart attack prompts Twin Lakes couple to wed

JoAnn Brandt Severson and Robert Lattaie. /Contributed photo

JoAnn Brandt Severson and Robert LaHaie. /Contributed photo

What finally spurred you to make the commitment to marry your soul mate?

For JoAnn Brandt Severson and Robert LaHaie of Twin Lakes,  it was a 50-year deferred romance and surviving a heart attack.

“It’ s a dream come true,” JoAnn said. “Life is really special when you go through something as severe as a heart attack.”

JoAnn and Bob’s story begins when they were both in high school. JoAnn explains that they were friends, but lost touch after high school.

“We parted our ways when we were in college,” JoAnn said, “and never really kept in touch with each other.”

They reconnected at their high school class’ 10-year reunion, but still did not pursue a relationship.

Then at the 50th reunion, something was different.

“After we met again, we realized we didn’t want to spend the rest of our lives without each other,” JoAnn said. There were some obstacles along the way, but Bob and JoAnn started their relationship in earnest.

“We just never gave up,” JoAnn said. “What brought us together was we never gave up and were always striving for that day we would be together.

And then their perspective about how that future should look was sharpened when JoAnn suffered a massive heart attack in 2012. At one point she had only 25 percent heart function.

But JoAnn survived and in fact became part of a stem cell study for heart attack patients  being conducted at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee (more info on the study here). She credits it with the amazing progress she has made since the heart attack. The procedure uses a patient’s stem cells to help repair damaged tissue.

JoAnn doesn’t exactly know if she actually received the stem cells or a placebo. But she definitely feels better.

“I keep getting better, I keep feeling better,” JoAnn said. “I’ve been climbing the steps whenever I need to. I don’t event think about it.”

Her new health regime includes daily exercise — at least 60 minutes of walking or a visit to a gym in Paddock Lake.

“I am able to do things now that I wasn’t able to to do a year ago, before I had my heart attack,” JoAnn said.

But the new lease on life brought on another decision. JoAnn and Robert decided to get married, which they did in a small ceremony with family and friends in Lake Geneva on Sept. 27.

“The reason for that, was life is too short,” JoAnn said of the decision to get married. “(Robert) would always comment, the only thing I want to change about you is your last name.”

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