June 10, 2010 is a day burned into Louie Ursini, Jr.'s, memory.
That Friday afternoon, the Madison resident and frequent runner came home early from work and decided to take what was supposed to be a quick run. He told his wife, Cindy, he'd be back soon and then they could usher in the weekend at a local happy hour.
"Next thing you know, she got a phone call that I was in an accident," Louie says.
As he jogged along Route 1 not far from his home, an elderly driver hit him with her car. Louie went through her windshield and landed in the woods, breaking his left scapula bone and three places in his neck and suffering nerve damage in his right arm.
He spent a few days in the hospital, followed by three months recuperating at home in a neck brace. To a casual observer today, there appear to be no lingering signs of physical damage.
"I am extremely fortunate," says the ever-positive Louie. "I could have flipped underneath the car. I could have been run over. Going through rehab and physical therapy was fabulous. It got me running again."
Well, more than just running again. On Nov. 3, almost 3 ½ years after the accident, Louie will be running the New York City marathon.
"It's kind of the ultimate way back," he says. "Let's face it-bad things happen and you have to deal with them. That's kind of the way I've been thinking of it."
Louie uses his comeback to set a positive example for his two sons, Jimmy, 18, a freshman at Fairfield University studying engineering, and Nick, a junior at Daniel Hand. Louie is also running to raise research money and awareness for a cause close to his heart-Jimmy was diagnosed at age 11 with Type 1 diabetes.
"I think people confuse Type 1 and Type 2," Louie says. "Type 2 is obviously something that people can control through diet. Type 1, juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas. I think a lot of times you don't realize that these kids get diagnosed at such an early age, and no kid should have to count carbs, take insulin shots, and deal with those kinds of things at such a young age."
The Ursinis, who will be at the marathon cheering on Louie, have been following the progress of Dr. Denise Faustman, Ph.D., director of Massachusetts General Hospital's (MGH's) Immunobiology Laboratory, and her team since Jimmy's diagnosis.
"Dr. Faustman is actually trying to cure juvenile diabetes," Louie says. "Most times people are trying to come up with technology and pumps and things to manage it-which is fabulous, believe me-but what Dr. Faustman's working on is curing it, and that would just be the ultimate. She's actually reversed the condition in mice. She's raising money for Phase 2 human trials right now. It's pretty encouraging for the future."
Family is key for Louie, in good times and bad. He met his wife, Cindy, while both were working as IT personnel at Aetna, at which Louie still works. The couple has lived in Madison for the past 16 years, and his parents now live right down the road.
"My mom and dad were a big help during my recuperation," says Louie, who grew up in New Haven. "They drove me around quite a bit. The boys stepped up quite a bit as well, doing all the yardwork and everything for three months. There are so many people to thank, and I can't thank everyone enough."
Louie devotes his free time to his family, as well.
"Going to my boys' baseball games is a big deal and I really enjoy that. Cindy and I go out and have a good time now that the boys are older," he says.
Louie also makes homemade wine, which he likes to bottle and share with his friends and family. And he visits the links as often as he can.
His takeaway from the accident, going from being on a couch unable to walk to running the New York City marathon, is one he's trying to share.
"It's a life lesson that I'm trying to give not just to my boys, but to anyone. Bad things happen to people and it's not always in your control, but it is in your control how you bounce back. You can do anything with hard work, commitment, and dedication-that's what I tell my boys all the time."
As for the role running plays in his life, Louie explains, "I was a hockey player in college at Quinnipiac. After I got out of college, I needed something to keep me going, so I was just a casual runner. Five miles at a time was my usual. I run the Turkey Trot every year since we've been here, so 16 years. It took about six months after the accident to get back to running normally."
With the marathon approaching, Louie finds himself in full training mode.
"Last week I did 20 miles, this week I have a little bit of a break, next week I do 23, then the full 26.2, then I kind of wind down and take a rest," he says. "I run every Saturday at Hammonasset because I know the route for the Turkey Trot so I can measure every mile-and there are fewer cars."
To learn more about research by the Faustman Lab on autoimmune diseases, visit www.faustmanlab.org. To donate through Louie to the Miles for MGH: NYC Marathon for Dr. Faustman's Diabetes Research fundraiser, visit www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/louisursini/miles-for-mgh-nyc-marathon.
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