The charitable foundation supporting a newly-certified stroke program at Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare announced a fundraising effort in which donations will be matched dollar for dollar by two local families that had life threatening experiences with stroke.

The families will match contributions to the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation’s Campaign for Stroke Care up to a limit of $170,000, according to Shaké Sulikyan, the foundation’s executive director.

The families are Lynn and Joan Seppala of Livermore, owners of the Independent, and Don and Sharon Ritchey of Pleasanton.

Lynn Seppala had a major stroke 27 years ago, while Don Ritchey had an apparent stroke this past summer. Ritchey’s experience turned out not to be a stroke, but a severe infection that was diagnosed and led to successful surgery the next day.

Speed is of the essence in diagnosing and treating stroke, which occurs at the rate of one every 40 seconds somewhere in the United States.

Only about one-fifth of stroke victims reach appropriate care fast enough for doctors to expect to prevent or reduce serious complications.

Not every medical center or hospital is qualified to handle stroke cases, however. Until recently, stroke victims had to be transported out of the Livermore-Pleasanton area for treatment.

That changed in early autumn, when the national review agency known as the Joint Commission completed its survey of Stanford-ValleyCare and certified it as a primary stroke center.

After that, ambulances could bring stroke victims to ValleyCare for local diagnosis and treatment.

In the 40 days after certification, according to Rick Shumway, CEO and president of Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare, the Pleasanton hospital received 45 patients who had experienced possible strokes.

“To have this kind of activity in the first month really demonstrates why this program is so important to the community,” he said.

Sulikyan, the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation’s executive director, said the fundraising drive will “bring to fruition the extensive stroke care program that Tri-Valley residents need.

“Thanks to the incredible generosity of Lynn and Joan Seppala and Don and Sharon Ritchey, the (drive) will help fund state-of-the-art rehabilitation services and equipment, stroke support services, a multidisciplinary stroke clinic, training and education and much more right here in our community.”

To contribute, phone 925-373-4560 or mail a check payable to VCCF to ValleyCare Charitable Foundation, 1111 E. Stanley Blvd., Livermore 94550.