The Joe Niekro Foundation premiered its Knuckle Ball event in Phoenix, raising money to support potentially lifesaving cerebrovascular research and honoring a lead investigator at Barrow Neurological Institute with a prestigious award.
During the event, Barrow Neurological Foundation was awarded a $160,000 grant from the Joe Niekro Foundation to support research aimed at discovering how certain cerebrovascular abnormalities – specifically arteriovenous malformations – affect the blood vessels of the brain, oftentimes with devastating consequences.
This is the second gift, totaling $210,000, made by the foundation to support a study currently under investigation by Joseph Zabramski, M.D., and Yashar Kalani, M.D., at Barrow Neurological Institute. Research results could enable doctors to identify at-risk patients more effectively, offering them treatment before the condition becomes life-threatening.
The Joe Niekro Foundation was established in 2008 by Natalie Niekro, who lost her father suddenly from a cerebral brain aneurysm in October 2006. In the months following her father’s death, she discovered there were no support services for families affected by brain aneurysms or similar conditions, nor was funding available to advance medical research to defeat them.
“I was so confused because I couldn’t understand how my healthy father, who had jogged five miles that morning, could be gone just hours later,” said Niekro. “I wanted answers . . . and the comfort of knowing others had been through this before. When I couldn’t find what I needed, I decided to create it myself. I don’t want others to feel as alone as I did.”
Her father, Joe Niekro, was a professional pitcher who played for seven Major League Baseball teams during his 22-year career, primarily the Houston Astros. His signature pitch was the knuckleball – a pitch with an unpredictable flight path that is extremely difficult to hit. To date, Niekro is still recognized as one of the top 10 knuckleball pitchers of all time.
In addition to receiving the research grant, Zabramski was recognized at the Knuckle Ball gala as the Joe Niekro Medical Humanitarian of the Year for his contributions to the field. The award was designed to recognize a neurological medical professional for ongoing research advancements and treatment studies of cerebral aneurysms, AVMs and hemorrhagic strokes.
“Much of what we do at the Joe Niekro Foundation is at the core of Dr. Zabramski’s research and practice,” Niekro says. “We are honored to support his efforts as well as recognize him as our Medical Humanitarian of the Year. It is certainly well deserved.”
“It was an extraordinary privilege to be named the Joe Niekro Medical Humanitarian of the Year,” Zabramski says. “I am humbled to receive it, and I am also incredibly grateful to have the continued support of the foundation to help us unravel the mysteries of AVMs through our ongoing research.”