Matt Rowe is no stranger to the running scene, some may even say he was born into the world of finish lines and ribbons. His dad, Tony Rowe, has coached cross country locally for over forty years. Not only has Matt coached running as well, but he’s also completed seven marathons. Of all the medals and trophies he’s earned throughout the years, the importance of his upcoming marathon this fall may surpass them all.
Matt, his wife Amy, and their one-year-old daughter Nadia will travel to New York City so he can compete in the New York City Marathon on November 3. Rowe has had this particular marathon on his radar for a while but wasn’t sure when he would get an opportunity to enter. The coveted race spots are dispersed through a lottery system, which makes it tough to get in. Over 125,000 people attempted to secure an entry last year, and just over 52,000 entrants received a spot to run the race.
Rowe acquired a coveted entry in the largest marathon in the world by representing one of the 400 charity sponsors for this event. Many apply each year and only a handful are chosen to run for each charity. It didn’t take any second-guessing for Matt to know this was the right avenue for him to take. He’s running in honor of his daughter who was born with a once life-threatening condition.
Nadia was born on January 23, 2018, with congenital CMV. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that is generally harmless to people with healthy immune systems. According to Amy, most people have been exposed to CMV at some point in their lives without realizing it. When first infected, some adults may have symptoms similar to a cold. However, a woman who develops an active CMV infection during pregnancy can pass the virus to her baby, which can be very dangerous for the baby. Contact with the saliva or urine of young children is a major cause of CMV infection among pregnant women.
“After Nadia was born, we spent about three and a half weeks in the NICU at Norton Children’s hospital in Louisville until we got to bring her home,” Amy said.
As first-time parents, the uncertainty of Nadia’s medical condition was a challenge for the young family. The baby was seen by many different doctors and had numerous tests run during this time. Nadia underwent several platelet and blood transfusions in order to keep her levels in the normal range. She lost her central vision in her right eye and requires hearing screenings every few months. According to medical providers, she could lose her hearing anytime during the first five years of her life.
Even in the midst of her challenges, Nadia is catching up on some developmental milestones. Currently, she’s 16 months old and learning how to walk.
“Tonight was a big deal for us,” Matt said. “She took five steps and walked for the first time.”
Matt hopes his story will bring awareness to the obstacles that babies born with CMV face, especially since June is CMV awareness month. His team, Compete 4 CMV-TCS New York City Marathon, has a collective goal of raising $25,000. Rowe says this opportunity is special to him because two things he is very passionate about — his little girl and the challenge of an amazing marathon — have presented themselves at the same time.
“I feel like two worlds are colliding,” Rowe said. “I’m marking something off my bucket list and giving back to the foundation that treats other children like my daughter at the same time.”
Nadia has experienced putting in the training miles as Matt has taken her on several runs while pushing her in a stroller. Her current record is five miles, and she seems to enjoy getting out there with her dad. Amy has also picked up running and recently completed her first 5K. As for Matt, he began training for the race in November.
“Some people would want to get out there just to do it,” Matt said. “If I am going to run this race, I am going to go fast.”
He is not running this race for himself, however. His vision is to get the local community involved with helping raise money for the cause. The East Daviess County Elementary races, a series that takes place at Yellow Creek Park every Tuesday in September, plans to donate the proceeds of their final race to the Rowe family. There is also a possible high school athletic event fundraiser in the works for this fall. Rowe is pleased with his progress, already reaching more than a third of his goal.
Matt is proud to be one of only five runners representing the National CMV Foundation. Other runners on his team are from Michigan, Maryland and New Hampshire. Some of the other parents in their CMV Facebook group share the daily lives of their children and how much they struggle. By sharing stories, the Rowe family has discovered that they are still very blessed because Nadia’s condition is less severe than many of the others.
“I would be lying if I said Matt and I still didn’t have questions. But through all of this, the one thing we never questioned was our faith in God,” Amy said. “We firmly believe God has a great plan for Nadia and will be with her every step of the way.”
For Matt, it will be 26.2 miles of steps for Nadia. Even with his back-to-back Kentucky High School Athletic Association state team titles while competing as a student at Daviess County High School or his division one scholarship at Austin Peay, this is one race he is sure to remember.