Archive for the 'Media Interviews' Category


Survivor Tale: Know the Symptoms, Get Scanned

Aneurysm Survivor turned author, Maria Ross

Maria Ross is a branding consultant, author and speaker who lives on the West Coast with her husband, Paul and their dog, Eddie. At age 35, Maria was struck down by an unexpected brain aneurysm and had an amazing recovery. She uses her voice to advocate for brain injury survivors and has written a humorous and heartwarming memoir about her experience titled, Rebooting My Brain: How a Freak Aneurysm Reframed My Life (2012, Red Slice Press).   Today, we share a glimpse of Maria’s story with you.

I’m lucky. I know it. In 2008, I suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm rupture and my husband’s quick thinking when I collapsed most likely saved my life.

People often ask, “Were there signs?”

The first sign happened two months earlier. I am a theatre actress in my spare time and was at an audition. I’m usually quite nervous, so of course I was anxious and my heart was racing. After stepping off the stage, I thought I’d be fine but I experienced a sudden, intense migraine unlike anything I’d ever felt before. One second I was fine – the next, I was nauseous, dizzy and my back and neck muscles cramped up in pain. I went to the doctor and my blood pressure was extremely high but he thought it was due to a lot of stress and change that was going on in my life at that time. We’d just moved to a new city, bought a house and I started a business! Plus, high blood pressure runs in my family.

Since I didn’t want to go on medication right away, he instructed me to monitor my blood pressure for a month and if it didn’t come down, he’d put me on pills. Frequent violent migraines, with the same muscle pain and vomiting, occurred every so often, but not every day.  In the meantime, I was doing more yoga and tried acupuncture to ease the stress. It seemed to work, at least temporarily.

One day, I had another severe headache and vomiting episode and couldn’t go to a client meeting as planned. My husband came home from work early to take care of me. He was home when I collapsed unconscious on the bathroom floor. Acting fast, he called the ambulance and paramedics arrived immediately.

They thought I had a drug overdose, as my symptoms were the same. But after emergency room scans detected the ruptured aneurysm, neurosurgeons performed a coiling procedure to stem the blood flow and saved my life.

While I looked fine, I was far from unscathed. I don’t remember the entire month of August 2008. I was blind for six weeks and visually impaired for longer due to retinal damage from the rupture.  I learned over many months and years of recovery the full cognitive, psychological and emotional impairments that accompany brain damage caused by a cerebral hemorrhage.

I’m absolutely thriving now as a result of the care I received, the resources available and the therapies offered. None of that would be possible without research money supporting the study of aneurysms and brain trauma.

However, all of this might have been avoided if I’d taken my health in my own hands and demanded a brain scan. While headaches are the most common symptom for a variety of illnesses, I knew in my bones this was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I’m not a hypochondriac or a complainer, so I should have asked more questions, I should have pushed for a scan. Some people say that if I’d gone to the emergency room with my symptoms rather than a private doctor, I would have been scanned and they would have detected the aneurysm before it did as much damage as it did. Who knows? We all know hindsight is 20/20 and I harbor no ill will toward the doctor who misdiagnosed me.

As a result of my injury, doctors have actually discovered another tiny aneurysm in another part of my brain. As long as I monitor it yearly and keep my blood pressure in check, all should be fine. And my older brothers have all gotten brain scans as well, since aneurysms tend to run in families (the theory on mine is that I have a combination of high blood pressure and weak blood vessels, both genetic traits).

My severe sudden headache, combined with the nausea and the neck and back muscle cramping seems to be a textbook symptom for aneurysms – and subarachnoid hemorrhages like mine. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, do your homework and demand scans if insurance will cover them. Better to be safe than sorry!

We would  like to thank Maria Ross for sharing her story with The Joe Niekro Foundation.  Maria’s story has become a light for many others who share a similar experience.  If you are interested in purchasing Marcia’s book, please click here.   Maria will be donating 10% of all net book sales during the month of June to The Joe Niekro Foundation. To find out more about Maria and her story, you can visit her website,


JNF and HCA Healthcare…a True Partnership

The Joe Niekro Foundation is thrilled to announce our new partnership with HCA Healthcare Gulf Coast Division.  This new found partnership allows for The Joe Niekro Foundation to continue with our mission of aneurysm awareness, aneurysm education, aneurysm research and aneurysm treatment for patients and families.  Over the years, The Joe Niekro Foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to aneurysm research and that mission will continue.  The alignment with HCA Healthcare opens up the opportunity to provide support for patients and families of aneuryms victims.  The flagship program will start in Houston will the goal of nationwide support by the other HCA divisions within the next 3-5 years.  This initial venture will offer continued awareness throughout the state of Texas through support groups, awareness programs, educational intitatives and campaigning opportunities.  We are thrilled to be part of such a wonderful organization and look toward the exciting initiatives we will jointly promote in the very near future.


Joe Niekro’s Knuckleball Lives On

I just got done watching E60 on ESPN, not a show I typically tune into, but tonight’s story had a special meaning.  Tonight, featured a story on Dad and how his knuckleball teaching has carried on through the years, making Chelsea Baker one of the best little league pitchers in the country.  Chelsea, now 13, played little league with my half brother, JJ where Dad volunteered as coach.  Day in and day out, Chelsea would beg my Dad to teach her how to throw the knuckleball and when Dad knew she was serious…and ready…he taught her the pitch that she now ballfes batters with every time she takes the mound.  Chelsea hasn’t lost a game in four years and has perfected the knuckleball exactly how Joe Niekro taught her to.  As I cried through the entire story, I also had a huge smile on my face because I know that Dad is looking down on Chelsea and so proud of what she has accomplished.  So, you see, Dad isn’t just a hero in my eyes….he’s a hero in SO many others too.  Enjoy this touching story!


Niekro to be Inducted in the Ohio Valley Hall of Fame

Joe Niekro will be inducted in the OVAC Hall of Fame on August 21, 2010

THREE ATHLETES who starred on the gridiron while a fourth who went on to star in Major League Baseball are the latest four selections into the OVAC Hall of Fame.

Tom Rataiczak, Executive Secretary of the OVAC, announced that Bridgeport’s Joe Niekro and Martins Ferry’s Larry Duck are the honorees for the decade of the 1960s while Mike Wright of Wellsville and Less Browne of East Liverpool have received the accolades for the 1970s.

The seventh annual OVAC Hall of Fame banquet will be held on Saturday, Aug. 21 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.

JOE NIEKRO (Bridgeport, Class of 1962) The younger half of the most successful brothers pitching tandem in Major League Baseball history, Joe carved his pro niche after distinguishing himself on the mound at the prep and collegiate levels.

Joe pocketed 221 Major League wins as he and older brother Phil teamed for 539 victories, still the professional high water mark.

Joe’s athletic feats took root at Bridgeport High, where he was more than just a pitching standout. Niekro, in addition to his baseball accolades, was an all-OVAC basketball player at the Kirkwood-based school.

Niekro was a major player in the Bulldogs capturing three straight Class AA baseball sectional and district titles, Class AA being the largest in Ohio at that time.

He closed out his prep career in stellar fashion, tossing a no-hitter against Martins Ferry in the sectional semifinals. He was honored as an All-Eastern Ohio baseball selection. Baseball had no OVAC All-Star team at that point.

Following his successful Bridgeport tenure, the Blaine resident matriculated to West Liberty State College. Niekro played both baseball and basketball for the Hilltoppers.

Niekro helped pitch the Gold & Black of legendary Coach George Kovalick to the 1964 NAIA national title.

His collegiate fetes helped propel Niekro to a 22-year Major League career. He pitched for seven teams during his career, with 11 seasons as a member of the Houston Astros. He won 21 games for the Astros in 1979 and followed that with 20 more victories in 1980.

During the 1979 campaign, he made the National League All-Star team, leading the senior circuit in wins and shutouts (5). He won the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award and was runnerup to Bruce Sutter in the Cy Young voting.

Niekro pitched in one World Series, that coming in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins. Joe hit one major league home run, that coming off brother Phil in 1976.

Niekro died Oct. 26, 2006 after suffering a brain aneurysm.

His legacy lives on through The Joe Niekro Foundation created by his only daughter, Natalie. The foundation’s proceeds are donated to various hospitals in an effort to expand aneurysm treatment and research.

Complete story is available here:


My Amazing Father and His Ability to Teach Others

When I read this story, my eyes welled up with tears.  I talked about this little girl just a week ago and how Dad had inspired and coached her on the fluttering knuckleball.  But, to read the comments she wrote about the man I am honored to call my Father was truly humbling.  How lucky I am to have had 33 beautiful years with him.  He is my forever angel and watching over all of us each and every day.  I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did, especially Chelsea’s quotes.|hp-laptop|dl4|link1|

Chelsea, keep up the great work and know that your teacher is smiling from above at the incredible talent and strength you have shown.


Recovery is Possible

Having learned of Bret Michaels’ brain hemmorhage which occurred less than two weeks ago, I have been actively reading up on his condition and praying for him and his family.  As I mention often, I am contacted regularly by people having lost a friend or family member to this tragic condition and due to Bret’s public image, this has raised a huge level of awareness of aneurysm research, treatment and education.  When I first heard of Mr. Michaels’ condition, it took me back to the day in which I found out about my father and I immediately thought of his children and what must be going on in their minds.  The vast media rumors were stating in most cases, the worst, for Mr. Michaels and it wasn’t until just recently that we are hearing of his incredible will to live and road to recovery.  This brings such joy to my heart – to know that he is winning this fight and in doing so, truly touching the lives of thousands.  The Joe Niekro Foundation sends our best to all the fighters out there – together we WILL win this fight!  

Bret Michaels is on the road to recovery after suffering a brain hemmorhage

10 relives the Niekro Magic

Today I spent almost an hour speaking with Tom Reese and Paul Rubillo of, a radio show broadcast from New Jersey.  They brought such joy to me as we relived some of Dad’s greatest playing moments and my childhood as the daughter of one of the greatest Knuckleball pitchers in history.  What a pleasure it was to hear how Dad impacted their lives and they joy he brought to their love of baseball.  Thank you Tom and Paul and best of luck to you both.


May 2019
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