WFMJ-TV 21 Quick action helped weatherman
The station expects Koontz to make a full recovery and return to the air.
By GUY D'ASTOLFO
VINDICATOR ENTERTAINMENT WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- It was a blessing in disguise that WFMJ-TV 21 weatherman Mark Koontz was on the air Saturday evening when he suffered a stroke, said Mona Alexander, the station's news director.
Koontz was alone in the weather center, which is on the third floor, above the newsroom, and it could have been much longer before anyone discovered he was in distress, Alexander explained.
Time is critical in treating a stroke victim.
"Nobody had any idea that there was anything wrong with him when he came in," said Alexander, who noted Koontz had no prior medical conditions. "When he came to work, he stopped to talk to [morning weatherman] Frank Marzullo, and said he had some congestion or a head cold. Then he went upstairs and put together the weather forecast. But no one suspected he had anything seriously wrong."
But when the weather portion began, Alexander, who was watching the 6 p.m. newscast from her home, could immediately tell something was wrong and called the station to tell them to call 911.
She said that viewers, including some in the medical profession, also called the station to say that something was wrong with Koontz.
The weatherman repeatedly lost his train of thought throughout his segments. He would begin talking, stop, and unsuccessfully struggle to find the words. He appeared to regain his composure somewhat late in the main weather segment, but was helped out by news anchor Jennifer Baligush at the end.
Koontz was in the Cleveland Clinic on Monday where he was still undergoing treatment. "He was conscious, alert and talking, with no paralysis," said Alexander, who added that he was still struggling to find words.
It does not appear that Koontz will have any lasting physical effects from the stroke, Alexander said.
The station is using other staff to fill in for Koontz and has not made plans to find a replacement. "We expect him to make a full recovery and come back to his job," Alexander said. "We're very optimistic."
Koontz's hospitalization has brought an outpouring of concern from the public. "We've set up a link on our Web site [www.wfmj.com] for people to send Mark a get-well e-mail," said Alexander.
Koontz, who is in his mid-50s, is a native of the Canton-Akron area. He spent the bulk of his career with WEWS TV-5, and WJW TV-8, both in Cleveland, before coming to WFMJ.