Like Winning the Lottery

Like Winning the Lottery

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Pitcher Danny Farquhar to discuss harrowing brain aneurysm

A year ago, Chicago White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar didn’t have to worry about his three children climbing on him, or mishaps on the diamond.

But on April 20, in a game against the Houston Astros, his life changed. Farquhar, 31, suffered a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm. Farquhar collapsed in the dugout, and on-site medical personnel rushed him to the hospital. Brain surgery followed. He doesn’t remember anything about it. Farquhar, who was released from the hospital May 7, says he’s lucky to be alive.

“The doctor always says I’ve won the lottery,” Farquhar says. “I’m feeling great. It’s almost as close as nothing happened. I just have to be cautious of how soft my skull is. I have to be really careful around ball playing or kids, especially my three. They love to climb on top of me.”

Farquhar, who hasn’t been cleared to play baseball again, will be the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Joe Niekro Foundation Knuckle Ball on Saturday, November 3, at the Hyatt Regency – Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch.

The Scottsdale-based Joe Niekro Foundation was started in 2008 by Natalie Niekro, daughter of 22-year MLB veteran Joe Niekro, after her father’s unexpected death from a ruptured brain aneurysm. The first Knuckle Ball, named after the pitch that made Joe Niekro famous, took place in 2009 in Houston, Texas, where he spent most of his career. Annual events are held in Scottsdale and Houston.

During the evening, the Patients Choice Award will be given to Dr. Felipe C. Albuquerque, Barrow Brain and Spine; Dr. Peter J. Sunenshine, Banner Health; Dr. Bernard R. Bendok, Mayo Clinic; and Dr. Kerry Knievel, Barrow Neurological Institute.

“I’m super excited,” Farquhar says about the speaking engagement. “It’s not only for the foundation, but my dad, my sister, brother-in-law, aunt and uncle are coming out to support me as well.”

Farquhar says he hopes to avoid getting choked up during his presentation. “I’m trying to not be emotional,” he says. “I want to be more inspiring. I think about all the positives about it. It’s pretty cool knowing I get a chance to speak to a lot of survivors.”

That aligns with the Joe Niekro Foundation mission. “Our mission here at the Joe Niekro Foundation is to continue the fight in raising awareness of brain aneurysms, AVMs and strokes. We are committed to helping develop a network of strength for patients, their families and their caregivers. This journey is long, but we are committed to succeeding,” says Aimee Hass, director of marketing operations and communications for the Joe Niekro Foundation.

The Joe Niekro Foundation’s goal is to raise awareness about the risk factors, causes and treatments of these conditions, while helping support the advancement of neurological research.

Proceeds from this year’s event will go toward the advancement and expansion of the foundation’s patient services and education program, as well as the establishment of a localized clinical research grant for applicants in the Phoenix area.

Farquhar has hosted fundraisers in the past, but this one will be different. “I hosted a cystic fibrosis event as a Mariners player with a few other guys,” he says. “But this is going to be a completely different experience. I’m a survivor of what I’m talking about. I have passion for it and I hope I can influence change.”

Farquhar has been training since the week he left ICU (granted, it was in the orthopedic physical therapy section of the hospital). He has had an angiogram to make sure the aneurysm healed and no others are growing. In December, he’s slated for a CT exam to check his progress.

“I’m on the DL (disabled list), but I’m completely healthy and I train as if nothing was an issue,” he says. “I’m training my butt off right now. I’ve hit a few personal records as far as throwing.

“I’m allowed to do anything and everything. I just have to protect my skull. I’m not allowed to play baseball because of it. It’s been a miracle what I’ve been able to do.”

The Knuckle Ball takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday, November 3 at Hyatt Regency – Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale. Tickets cost $300. For more information, call 480-292-0862, email jcruz@joeniekrofoundation.com, or visit phoenixknuckleball.org.