Running for Uncle Jay

There will be many people competing in Sunday's OC Marathon, hundreds from the running community coming together to take part in the marathon, half-marathon and 5K race.

Within all the groups and individuals, there will be a family that has united to run for Julius Viana, a longtime Newport Beach resident affectionately known as, "Uncle Jay," in the family.

In July of 2005, Uncle Jay suffered a stroke and has not been the same since, as he's confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak. But he can understand when others speak and was taken aback this past Christmas during the annual Viana dinner.

His niece, Gina, challenged her brother, Dean, to run in the OC Marathon. Dean Viana, a fire captain and paramedic coordinator in Beverly Hills, is no stranger to marathons. He recently competed in the Los Angeles Marathon, and he also competes in triathlons.

So when his sister challenged him, he wanted to outdo her. Dean said he would run while pushing Uncle Jay in the half-marathon.

Dean said Uncle Jay made sounds and facial expressions, as if to say, "You're going to do what?"

But soon everyone else in the family realized what a special day it could be at the OC Marathon. Dean's wife and son also wanted to run alongside and help with Uncle Jay. More and more in the Viana family wanted to run for Uncle Jay too.

Now at least 18 of the Viana family will be running for Uncle Jay on Sunday. Doctor's orders permit Uncle Jay from being in the race. Just being pushed in an adult-type stroller would be too much for Uncle Jay, his wife and caregiver, Donna, said.

Still, she plans to bring Uncle Jay to the finish line to watch the family finish the race. Donna is extremely grateful for the thoughts and support.

She nearly cried when explaining how she felt about the family uniting in the race for Uncle Jay.

"This is exceptional, really exceptional," Donna said. "I'm getting emotional already. It's really something special what they're doing."

Uncle Jay's life dramatically changed after the stroke, Donna said. Her life changed as well as she's now his main caregiver. She has had to research and work to make a better life for her family. The rest of the Vianas have been around for support.

Running for Uncle Jay on Sunday will be emotional for everyone involved.

Uncle Jay has dealt with atrial fibrillation, Donna said. She said they were fortunate Uncle Jay had the stroke at home. He was walking out to get the newspaper, Donna said. The stroke came, but within 15 minutes, the paramedics arrived to take him to Hoag Hospital, she said.

Uncle Jay, who turned 68 on April 16, recently had an episode that left his blood thinner than it had been.

"I don't think this can be done," Donna said of Uncle Jay being pushed in the race. "It's not a good time right now. But he's healthy. Our intention is to be at the finish line. We will be watching everyone come in. After that we are all going out for brunch."

Dean wanted to push his uncle in the race, but he understands if it can't happen. He's in the business of helping people, and at times rescuing them from death.

He wanted to help his uncle and support him through the OC Marathon. Dean tried to find a big stroller for his uncle before going on vacation in Hong Kong. Dean expressed there is a lot of love in the Viana family.

"This is huge, I get emotional just thinking about it," Dean said, while fighting off tears during a phone interview Wednesday morning from Hong Kong. "It's just amazing that the family has stepped up to do this for him. He can't do it, but for us to be able to stand up and run for him, it means everything. Our family, the Vianas, we are really proud of our name and we are very tight."

Donna is grateful for the efforts, and she's also happy because the running will provide good health for her family and others, as well.

"I hope other families would see this and this will have them come together too," Donna said. "We don't see each other that often because we are all busy. This is an event we can all come together. And it's fun too. It goes to health. Once you have an experience like we have, you realize how important your health is … This marathon is a proactive thing. They are all doing something good for themselves."

And the Vianas are all doing something good for Uncle Jay.

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