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Patient Testimonials


Dan and Holly Elbert

Since having bariatric surgeries at the Avera Bariatric Institute, Dan and Holly Elbert have collectively lost more than 200 pounds. Both Dan and Holly chose to have lap-band surgery, which is less invasive and has a fast recovery period, after years of trying diets that never achieved the substantial weight loss they needed.

Combined with changes to their diet, the surgeries have opened up a world of activities the Elberts once felt uncomfortable doing. Now, they spend time exercising together, and running is a part of Dan’s daily routine.

"If someone is on the fence to have the surgery or not, I would highly recommend it," Holly said. “"It's been a life-changing experience for me, and it's been a lot easier than I thought it was. After the recovery from the actual surgical procedure, the rules are easy to follow. Darcie (bariatric coordinator) and Dr. (Bradley ) Thaemert have been there to answer all the questions that I've had to help me through the process."

Read more about Dan and Holly and other bariatric patient testimonials

Breast Center

Vikki Breen

Vikki Breen of Sioux Falls would have never wanted to receive a breast cancer diagnosis – especially after having eight previous surgeries on her breast due to skin cancer at a young age. "But thanks to Dr. Julie Reiland, I came out of the breast cancer experience better than when I came in," she says.

Vikki had a vivid dream that she had a breast lump and felt compelled to get it checked out. A mammogram, breast ultrasound and biopsy indeed confirmed that she had breast cancer.

After hearing good recommendations about Dr. Reiland, Vikki went to see her for a surgical consultation, and learned that she could have a lumpectomy to remove the cancer from her breast. Also, previous surgeries on her breast had left her "lopsided," and she learned that Dr. Reiland could incorporate plastic surgery techniques to make both her breasts look the same.

"Dr. Reiland is not only an amazing surgeon, she is an amazing person," says Vikki, who also went through radiation and chemotherapy to prevent further spread of the cancer and recurrence. "It wasn’t easy, but at every step of the journey, she was there to hold my hand if I needed it, or to give me a pep talk."

Today, Vikki says she feels better about herself than she has ever felt in her life. "As far as my breasts were concerned, I never felt pretty – I always felt defective. For someone to take that defect away was absolutely amazing," she said.

"We have a breast specialist – right here in Sioux Falls. Without Dr. Reiland, I would be in a very different position today. Everyone at Avera was so kind, I can’t say enough. Every woman deserves that experience."

Gynecologic Oncology

Tori Zalaznik

When most college students are spending their time cramming for exams, Tori Zalaznik of Mason City, Iowa, was going through a different kind of life change.

At the age of 19, the college student was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, uncommon in women before the age of 50. Working with Dr. Luis Rojas of Avera Medical Group Gynecologic Oncology, Tori had one of her ovaries removed and a wash of her abdominal cavity to make sure any fluid that was drained from the cyst couldn’t carry cancerous cells elsewhere in her body. She also underwent several rounds of chemotherapy.

Her experience working with the oncology nurses led her to change career paths with the goal of helping others. Today, she is healthy and enrolled in an accelerated degree program at the University of Sioux Falls to become a registered nurse.

Dr. Rojas even wrote a letter of recommendation for Tori to send with her application.

"He was like a big brother to me. I could tell he really cared about how everything turned out, and he wanted to make sure I stayed healthy. Something about him is just awesome," Tori said.


Caroline, Crooks

"I feel that a giant burden is lifted off of me. Dr. (Jeffrey) Stevens made me feel important and was very thorough. The staff is phenomenal! Thank you Denise for convincing me to get my eyes thoroughly checked. I felt like family! Thank you!"

Read more ophthalmology patient testimonials


Roger Koole

roger kooleRoger discusses his experience at Avera Transplant Institute.

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While Roger Koole was moving from California to Sioux Falls, his wife noticed changes in his behavior such as slurred speech.

It wasn’t until he visited the Avera Cancer Institute and had an MRI and CT scan that doctors realized he had primary central nervous system lymphoma, in which cancer cells form in the lymph tissue of the brain or spinal cord.

Koole underwent eight monthly treatments and a stem cell transplant and is now cancer-free.

"It’s like a triangle," Koole said of his treatment. "It’s the Lord, it’s family, it’s the doctors, nurses and staff who basically have allowed me to go through this and still come out successful and a survivor. I am thankful that I had the treatment and the doctors here."