Minnesota Twins to Host Brain Aneurysm Awareness Day

In honor of Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, The Minnesota Twins will pay tribute to one of baseball’s most renowned pitchers and former Minnesota Twins Knuckleballer, Joe Niekro by hosting Brain Aneurysm Awareness Day on September 4th. Niekro spent 22 years in the major leagues, notching 221 wins and still holds the record, with his brother Phil, of the most successful brother combination in major league history, with 539 wins. On October 27, 2006, Joe passed away from a sudden brain aneurysm. Today, his legacy lives on through the Joe Niekro Foundation, committed to supporting patients and aiding in the research, treatment and awareness of Brain Aneurysms, AVMs and Hemorrhagic Strokes. The foundation strives to raise awareness about the risk factors, causes and treatments of these conditions, while helping support the advancement of neurological research.  JNF provides public education and advocacy, support for patients and families, and develops awareness programs and educational materials for hospitals, clinics and other institutions nationwide. Attending the day will be, Founder of The Joe Niekro Foundation, Joe’s daughter, Natalie, representatives from Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Stryker Neurovascular, along with several brain aneurysm/AVM/stroke survivors and family members. The group will be recognized during a special on-field ceremony before the game and will enjoy the game immediately following. An informational booth with literature on these conditions and the foundation will be set up on the main concourse during the game for anyone interested in stopping by.

If you would like to help or find out more about the foundation, visit www.joeniekrofoundation.org.

Natalie Niekro – Founder – The Joe Niekro Foundation – 602-318-1013 nniekro@joeniekrofoundation.org


Dr. Demetrius Lopes Joins JNF Advisory Board

The Joe Niekro Foundation is pleased to welcome Dr. Demetrius Lopes to our Medical Advisory Board.

Demetrius LopesDemetrius Klee Lopes, MD is the Section Chief of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He is highly skilled in endovascular surgery, microsurgery and radiosurgery of brain and spinal vascular problems. This unique set of skills allows Dr Lopes to personally provide all available vascular treatments to his patients. Dr Lopes’ practice focuses on caring for patients with complex aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations (AVM), dural arteriovenous fistulas (DAVF) carotid and vertebral-basilar blockage and stroke.  He also serves as Surgical Director of the Rush Comprehensive Stroke Center, Director of the Rush Center for Neuroendovascular Surgery, Director of Endovascular Neurosurgery Fellowship Education and Surgical Director of the Rush University Interventional Services.

Dr. Lopes began his medical education at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil (1987), followed by a General Surgery (PGY-1) internship at University of Illinois at Chicago and Cook County Hospital (1993) and Neurology (PGY-2) at the Indiana University (1994). He completed training in Neurosurgery and Fellowship in Neuroendovascular Surgery at State University of New York at Buffalo (1995-2001). In 2001, he was invited to head the cerebrovascular program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Dr. Lopes is an active author, lecturer and researcher. He has written many articles and chapters on various aspects of cerebrovascular surgery. His current research interests are in minimally invasive repair of blood vessels (aneurysms), intravascular imaging, flow diversion, arteriovenous malformation and stroke therapies. Dr Lopes’ is the principal investigator to trials for flow diverters such as Pipeline, Surpass, Fred and Web. As well as, stents like Lvis jr and Liberty. Dr. Lopes is unsurpassed in the Chicago-area in terms of expertise, experience, multidisciplinary collaboration and access to the latest diagnostic and stroke-prevention technologies. Dr Lopes is founding member of the World Live Neurovascular Conference (WLNC).

Welcome to the JNF Family Dr. Lopes – we are excited to have you!



JNF Welcomes Two New Advisory Members

The Joe Niekro Foundation is excited to announce our newest Medical Advisory Board Members, Dr. Peter Rasmussen of Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Aman Patel of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Aman Patel, MDDr. Patel, MD is a neurosurgical attending at Massachusetts General Hospital with clinical interests in cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery with a focus on the treatment of cerebral aneurysms, vascular malformations and stroke. Prior to Mass General, Dr. Patel was Full Professor of Neurosurgery and Radiology, Director Cerebrovascular/ Endovascular Neurosurgery, Co-Director Stroke Program and Vice-Chairman Department of Neurosurgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.  He started the program 13 years ago after completing post-graduate training in neurosurgery and interventional neuroradiology with a focus on the care of patients with cerebrovascular disease across the specialties of neurosurgery, radiology and neurology. This collaborative approach has led to the growth of the program to becoming one of the busiest centers in New York City.

An expert in the vasculature of the brain and spine, Dr. Patel offers both endovascular and open microsurgical options to patients. He specializes in the minimally invasive treatment of brain and spinal disorders using endovascular techniques that are creating new treatment options for a broad range of conditions, replacing long and difficult traditional surgeries with low-risk interventions. When indicated, he also performs open surgery for cerebrovascular disease and general neurosurgery.

Dr. Patel is involved in multiple multi-center studies, NIH and industry sponsored, that investigate treatments related to ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, new devices and new techniques.  He is focused on cerebrovascular treatments with a goal of developing a world-class program at Mass General that advances the clinical, academic, research and education work that began at Mount Sinai, with a goal of adding additional basic and clinical research.

RasmussenPeter Rasmussen, MD is Director of the Cerebrovascular Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Medical Director of Distance Health. Dr. Rasmussen’s clinical interests are in hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke, primarily focusing on cerebral aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations and occlusive intracranial atherosclerotic disease. He maintains a busy practice offering patients either open microsurgery or endovascular, minimally invasive treatment options. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison, Wisconsin, completed his residency in neurosurgery at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, completed fellowship training in interventional neuroradiology/endovascular neurosurgery at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, as well as a fellowship in microsurgical treatment of cerebrovascular disease also at the Cleveland Clinic. He joined the faculty at the Cleveland Clinic in 2000. He has authored numerous scientific papers and book chapters. Currently he is an ad hoc reviewer for the Journal of Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery, Journal of Neurointerventional Surgery and American Journal of Neuroradiology. During his career, Dr. Rasmussen has maintained an active interest in applied or translational research acting as the Co-Director of the Endovascular Neurosurgery Research Laboratory. He is an active member of many professional organizations including the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery, and the Joint Sections on Neurotrauma, Critical Care and Cerebrovascular Surgery.
Dr. Rasmussen is the President of the Society of NeuroInterventional Surgery (SNIS), is a past Vice Chair of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons, Cerebrovascular Section, and has been appointed as a fellow to both the American Heart Association (FAHA) and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (FAANS).

We are thrilled to have these two amazing surgeons join our family!  Thank you for your commitment to The Joe Niekro Foundation!


JNF Welcomes Two New Patient Advocates

Please join us in welcoming our two newest Patient Advocates, Tammy Curmano and Linda Legner-Romano.  We are excited to have you on board and thank you for your continued commitment to The Joe Niekro Foundation and our mission.

TamTammymy is a 5-year brain aneurysm survivor and extremely passionate about patient support and advocacy.  Tammy states, “I know that we make a difference in the lives of so many that feel alone.  The most important thing is having a positive, inspirational place to come for answers.  The team is here for us all, to help us through our challenges and celebrate all of our milestones!  I wish I would have known this group when I needed it the most, but now I am a part of the most compassionate and supportive team, and am extremely grateful.”  Tammy – we are so thankful for you!

On June 25, 2013, Linda Legner-Romano underwent the Pipeline procedure to treat her four brain Lindaaneuryms and today is focused on providing support to other brain aneurysm/AVM survivors and families.  A very important goal for Linda is to work together with other survivors of brain aneuryms and avms and their family members to provide the support she understands first hand is so critical. Linda will be facilitating our new Chicago Support Group at Rush University Medical Center which begins this coming Thursday, August 21st.  “We as a group of survivors can unite to support one another. Together we can understand the uniqueness of our situation and wrap our arms around each other in comfort to know we are not alone,” states Linda.

Tammy and Linda – Welcome to the JNF Family!



JNF Names Medical Humanitarian of the Year

diaz imageThe Joe Niekro Foundation is excited to announce Orlando Diaz, MD as this year’s Medical Humanitarian of the Year.

This award honors a Houston based medical professional for their ongoing research advancements and treatment studies of cerebral aneurysms, AVMs and/or hemorrhagic strokes, as well as their philanthropic endeavors.  Dr. Diaz will be presented with this year’s award at the 2014 Knuckle Ball…A Pitch for Life gala on September 20th at Hotel ZaZa in Houston, TX.

“We are thrilled to honor Dr. Diaz with this year’s award. His professional and volunteer services go above and beyond and his endeavors deserve the utmost recognition,” states JNF Founder, Natalie Niekro.


Dr. Diaz teaching while performing an interventional surgery

Dr. Diaz travels frequently to South America to perform pro-bono services and treat the poorest of a population who would not have otherwise received any treatment. Dr. Diaz states, “Each time we go in these missions, we see our rewards in the faces of our patients and their families.  Our trips also allow for the opportunity to teach other South American physicians the latest techniques that are utilized here in the United States.”

Dr. Orlando Diaz is board certified by the American Board of Radiology and holds a certificate of added qualifications in neuroradiology. Formerly an assistant professor in interventional radiology at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of interventional neuroradiology at Ben Taub General Hospital, he joined the medical staff at Houston Methodist Hospital in 2007 and provides advanced neuroradiology and interventional neuroradiology services at the Texas Medical Center, West Houston, Sugar Land and Willowbrook campuses. He is the program director of the Houston Methodist Hospital Interventional Neuroradiologist Fellowship within the Radiology Department. He is also a part of the staff at Houston Radiology Associates.

Dr. Diaz’ clinical expertise includes:

  • Endovascular treatment of aneurysms
  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
  • Spinal dural fistulas
  • Facial AVMs
  • Vein of Galen malformations
  • Cerebral and spinal arteriography with 3D rotational imaging
  • Intracranial stenosis
  • Carotid stenting
  • Devascularization of tumors in preparation for surgery
  • Stroke therapy

Current research projects include the use of Penumbra coils in the treatment of aneurysms and other vascular diseases, the safety and effectiveness in the treatment of wide neck aneurysms with the Penumbra liberty stent, carotid artery stenting outcomes in the standard risk population for carotid endarterectomy – to evaluate safety and effectiveness of a new stenting system, the use of matrix and GDC coils for the treatment of intracranial saccular aneurysms, and Hydrocoil for endovascular aneurysm occlusion.

Congratulations Dr. Diaz and thank you for your incredible work within the neurointerventional sciences.  We look forward to honoring you on September 20th at The Knuckle Ball.






Natalie Niekro




Chairman, Natalie Niekro, of the 5th Annual Knuckle Ball…A Pitch for Life, on September 20th, at Hotel Zaza, is pleased to announce some of this year’s participating athletes who will be honoring her father and former Houston Astros pitcher, Joe Niekro. Over 40 MLB, NFL and NBA athletes will be attending and mingling with the guests.  To name a few, will be:

  •      Nolan Ryan (Hall of Fame Inductee – 1999) – MLB Pitcher – New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers (1966-1993)
  •      Bert Campaneris – MLB Shortstop – Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, California Angels, New York Yankees (1964-1983)
  •      JR Richard – MLB Pitcher – Houston Astros (1971-1980)
  •      Dave Bergman – MLB 1st Baseman – New York Yankees, Houston Astros, SF Giants and Detroit Tigers (1975-1992)
  •      Bill Dawley –   MLB Pitcher – Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Oakland Athletics (1983-1989)
  •      Jeff DeWillis – MLB Pitcher – Toronto Blue Jays (1987)
  •      Jon Warden – MLB Pitcher – Detroit Tigers (1968)
  •      John Egan – NBA Point Guard – Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Baltimore Bullets, LA Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets (1961-1972), NBA Coach – Houston Rockets (1973-1976)
  •      Chester Pitts – NFL Offensive Guard – Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks (2002-2011)

Since Joe Niekro’s tragic and sudden death in 2006, as a result of a brain aneurysm, his daughter, Natalie established The Joe Niekro Foundation, committed to aiding in the research and treatment of brain aneurysms, AVM’s and hemorrhagic strokes.  The foundation strives to raise awareness about the risk factors, causes and treatments of these conditions, while helping support the advancement of neurological research.  TJNF provides public education and advocacy, support for patients and families, and develops awareness programs and educational materials for hospitals, clinics and other institutions nationwide.

Because of her father’s love for the Houston Astros and the city of Houston, it is only fitting that The Knuckle Ball be held in the city that gave the Niekro family their greatest memories. The evening, emceed by KHOU personality and brain aneurysm survivor, Deborah Duncan, features a festive reception, silent auction, formal dinner, LIVE auction and the opportunity to mingle with some of sports greatest legends.

Bobby Tudor will be honored as the Joe Niekro Humanitarian of the Year for his outstanding commitment and contributions to the Houston community.  A portion of the funds from the event will be granted in the name of Bobby Tudor, to a Houston neurological department of his choice.

As many as one in fifty Americans will develop a cerebral aneurysm or AVM; 10-15% of these individuals will die before reaching the hospital and over 50% will die within the first thirty days after rupture. Of those who survive, over half suffer permanent neurological deficit. For more info, visit www.joeniekrofoundation.org/knuckleball.


Questions, Questions, Questions

Ever wonder what sort of questions you need to ask your doctor when preparing for treatment?  We have put together a few of those for you!


By Carrie Myrick Hirmer

1.         What possible problems should I look for after brain surgery?

2.         What happens after I am discharged from the hospital after brain surgery?

3.         What type of operation do I need?

4.         What do you expect the surgery to achieve?

5.         Will the operation cure my brain aneurysm/AMV/SAH?

6.         Will I need any other procedure after surgery?

7.         How likely is it that the aneurysm/AVM/SAH will come back at some time in the future?

8.         What are the risks and benefits of this operation/procedure?

9.         What are the likely long-term effects of this operation?

10.      How can I best prepare myself for this operation?

11.      When I wake up, will I be in intensive care?

12.      How long do you expect me to be unconscious after surgery?

13.      What are the possible complications of this type of operation/procedure?

14.      What will happen if I don’t have surgery?

15.      Is there any other type of treatment I could have?

16.      How long will it take me to get over this operation?

17.      How can I help myself recover?

18.      Who will speak to my family after the surgery?

19.      What kind of timeframe am I looking after for total recovery?

20.      Is complete recovery possible?


Please note: This list it is not meant to be all-inclusive, rather a guideline to get you to think about the things that you might want to discuss with your doctor. All cases are unique, so some of these questions may not apply to your case, and you may want to add some additional questions as well. You may want to talk with your doctor about what you need to do to designate a health care proxy – someone to make decisions for you when you’re put to sleep or otherwise make decisions for yourself. Also, be sure your file has emergency names and contact phone numbers.


© The Joe Niekro Foundation

For more information, please visit our website – http://www.joeniekrofoundation.org

For online support, please visit these groups, sponsored by The Joe Niekro Foundation

The Brain Aneurysm/AVM Support Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/aneurysmavm/

Parents of Brain Aneurysm/AVM Children Support Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/ParentsBAAVM/


August 2014
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