Press Releases & Announcements

“Strike Out Stroke” Softball Tournament to Raise Awareness and Funds

Friday, May 08, 2009 - Danbury, CT

Hundreds of supporters are expected to attend “Strike Out Stroke,” a Memorial Day weekend softball tournament aimed at increasing awareness about stroke and raising funds to support the John Semenetz, Sr. Memorial Fund at Danbury Hospital.

Thirty-two softball teams will take part in the three-day tournament at Rogers Park in Danbury on Friday, May 22 through Sunday, May 24. On Saturday, clinicians from Danbury Hospital’s nationally accredited Primary Stroke Center will conduct stroke risk assessments.

Play ball!

Neil Culligan, MD, Medical Director of Danbury Hospital’s Primary Stroke Center, will throw out the first pitch on Friday at 5 p.m. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is expected to attend, as well. Twelve co-ed teams and 20 men’s team are participating in the event.

All proceeds will benefit the John Semenetz, Sr. Memorial Fund at Danbury Hospital, which was established by friends to promote stroke awareness and education, said Lori Mikell, an event organizer. Semenetz—the fiancé of Mikell’s mother-in-law—died from complications associated with a stroke.

“Interest in the tournament has been awesome,” said Mikell. “It’s going to be great.”

Turning grief into positive action

Organizers hope the tournament will become an annual event to draw attention to the importance of recognizing the signs of stroke and promptly calling 9-1-1 at the first sign of symptoms. May is Stroke Awareness month.

Semenetz’s family and friends felt it was important to “turn our grief into something positive” so others take action if they or a loved one suspect a potential stroke, said Mikell.

“In hindsight, we never saw any of the warning signs of stroke,” she added. “John was a huge part of our lives. He was a very positive individual. We knew John wouldn’t want us to sit around and grieve. Stroke education and awareness has become an important mission for our family.”

Quick action saves lives, brain cells

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States and the nation’s third cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. A stroke or “brain attack” occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen to the brain becomes clogged or bursts. A transient ischemic attack or TIA is a “mini stroke” that lasts for a short period of time, but generally has no lasting brain damage.

Although effective treatments are available, many people do not recognize stroke symptoms and even those who suspect stroke do not call 9-1-1 to receive emergency medical care, noted Heather Duggan, BSN, RN, Stroke Program Coordinator for Danbury Hospital’s. As a nationally accredited Primary Stroke Center, Danbury Hospital has the rapid response system, resources and staff to provide state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment and prevent the complications associated with stroke.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to treating stroke because we only have three hours from the onset of symptoms to administer intravenous medication that can potentially stop the effects of a stroke and preserve brain cells,” she said. “Knowing the symptoms of stroke can save lives.”

Stroke risk assessments are valuable tools

Duggan will be among the physicians and other clinicians from Danbury Hospital’s Primary Stroke Center who will be on hand Saturday to conduct stroke risk assessments and provide literature about stroke to people attending the softball tournament. A stroke risk assessment includes blood pressure measurement, lifestyle evaluation and medical history.

Knowledge is power

Mikell hopes those who attend the tournament, no matter what their age, will gain a better understanding of their own risk for stroke and the importance of calling 9-1-1 as soon as they suspect stroke. The warning sings of stroke or mini stroke are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

“If we educate just one person,” said Mikell, “then we’ve done a wonderful thing.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at the tournament or making a monetary contribution to the John Semenetz, Sr. Memorial Fund at Danbury Hospital can contact Mikell at (203) 482-6919.

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with New York Medical College, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders and radiology. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board certified in their specialties.

Danbury Hospital is ranked in the top 5 percent of hospitals in the country for overall clinical performance by HealthGrades, a leading independent health care rating organization. It is the only health care facility in Connecticut ranked among the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for overall clinical performance five years in a row. In the area of cardiac care, Danbury Hospital is ranked number one in Connecticut for cardiac surgery and in the top 5 percent nationally for overall cardiac care by HealthGrades. This is the second consecutive year for the national award.