Louisville woman to honor Thurby organ donation with personalized hat

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sheri Rukavina was enjoying the 2009 Keeneland Spring Reunion in Lexington with girlfriends when a bold and handsome stranger jumped off a party bus and strolled up to her.

“Hi. My name is Mark,” he told her. “I am a doctor.”

Sheri was going to marry this recent University of Louisville medical school graduate, Mark Rukavina, in 2013, after dating him throughout his emergency medicine residency.

During their years together, Mark shared his love of the Thunder Over Louisville and Kentucky Derby Festival Chow Wagon with Sheri, and they always tried to get to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby, where he was known to wear a seersucker suit.

In 2019, Mark passed away from a rare and aggressive form of liver cancer, but this year Sheri will honor his memory in Thurby with a personalized fascinator to raise awareness for organ donation.

Milliner Ilana Kogan created this fascinator for Sheri Rukavina to wear at the upcoming Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky. on April 26, 2022.

The eye-catching helmet was designed by Dr. Ilana Kogan, a Prospect-based milliner known as “The Hat Doctor”, full-time radiologist and medical school classmate of Sheri’s late husband.

Mark was on the verge of death when he received a liver transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in 2019. It ultimately gave him just four more months to live — not the 10 years he had hoped — but those are memories that Sheri will always hold dear.

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