Two-time transplant recipient set to leave a running legacy

MANSON – Emily Markert runs.

As a teenager, the Manson native was diagnosed with a rare lung disease in the summer of 1999 and underwent a bilobar, or partial, lung transplant.

By May 2000, she had returned to the track and ran in the 200 meter dash for her high school team.

Then, in 2005, while completing her senior year at Iowa State University, Markert’s body began rejecting the transplanted lobes. She underwent a full lung transplant in early 2006 and quickly returned to running.

In 2007, she ran the last mile of the Boston Marathon with a former track teammate and childhood friend, Abby Sweet.

And now, though critically ill with bone and liver cancer, running will be her legacy.

On Aug. 24, the first ever “Emily’s Fight: Donate Life” event, a 5K run/walk, will be held in downtown Manson to raise awareness about organ donation. Registration for the run will be from 7 to 8:15 a.m. in front of Big Beve’s on Main Street.

A tribute to Markert will be made before the runners take off on a route that retraces the cross-country trail Markert used to run in high school.

“They will be on her old stomping grounds,” said Liz Markert, Emily Markert’s mother.

The route will ultimately return to the starting point outside the restaurant where muffins, fruit and water will be offered at the finish line. Registration is $25 and includes a T-shirt.

In addition, a personalized bench by Fitzgerald Welding will be raffled off. Tickets for the raffle are $1 each, and people don’t need to be present to win. The funds raised will go to benefit organ donation organizations.

“When we did a bucket list for her, she wanted to have an event like this to raise awareness and raise funds for the Iowa Donor Network,” Liz Markert said.

To further help get the message across at the race, a representative from the Iowa Donor Network will be on hand, and information about organ donation will be available at Big Beve’s.

According to Donate Life, a nonprofit alliance of national and state organizations that aid in promoting organ, eye and tissue donation, more than more than 120,000 men, women and children are currently awaiting organ transplants.

In 2013, 28,953 organ transplants were performed with 14,257 people donating the organs for the procedures. Additionally, more than 47,000 corneas were transplanted and more than 1 million tissue transplants were done.

“A lot of people think if they have a certain illness or disease that they can’t donate,” Liz Markert said, “but that isn’t necessarily true. What they say is, don’t rule yourself out. Let the medical professionals do that.You may not be able to donate an organ, but maybe you can give tissue that is just as needed.”

Organ donation is a gift of life, she said, and it can help someone finish their own race.