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"I've got to save my mom": Woman gives her mother gift of life with liver donation

When Lori Herbert was told she needed a new liver, she found a matching donor right in her own family.

BAINBRIDGE, Ind. — Mother's Day is Sunday, but this year it came a few months early for a Putnam County woman. 

Lori Herbert, 59, received a life-saving gift from her oldest daughter, Jessica, in February.

Doctors told Lori last year, "I could not be sick at all. Even a cold could be detrimental," she said.

When she was 17, Lori had a case of viral hepatitis that progressed to non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. Her condition had worsened to the point that she needed a new liver. Without one, her lifespan would be zero-to-five years. Doctors told her finding a living donor was an option.

"I never asked my girls one time, would you do this for me. They just jumped in and said they would," she recalled. "I wanted them to know they didn't have to do that for me...I never expected them to put their life on the line for me."

But Jessica said she and her sister Jennifer never hesitated. Both signed up immediately to see if either was a compatible match.

Credit: Lori Herbert
Lori Herbert with her daughters, Jennifer and Jessica.

Jessica wound up being the viable match.

"I wasn't thinking about anything else but I've got to save my mom," she said.

The surgery took place February 15. It lasted seven hours for Jessica and more than 10 hours for Lori and went exceptionally well, though the recovery was, at times, very painful for both.

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They saw each other three days later, when Jessica was guided into her mom's hospital room for an emotional reunion.

Jessica wound up giving her mom 60 percent of her liver. The liver is the one organ that regenerates, meaning both Lori's liver and the portion she gave her mother would grow back.

Nearly three months later, doctors told them Jessica's liver is probably full size and Lori's is probably close to that.

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They have large J-shaped scars across their abdomens, which they've showed off in pictures, calling them "beautiful."

As Jessica explained, "I'm absolutely proud to wear it. It's symbol of life, of everything. I'm giving back the love I have for my mama."

Credit: Lori Herbert
Lori Herbert and her daughter share matching scars from their surgery, which they call "beautiful."

Getting teary-eyed, Lori said, "it's always emotional to have a daughter willing to risk their life for you."

This Mother's Day, they have much to celebrate, as Jessica said, "We get to celebrate another year. I feel that's the most important part, another year of mom and another year."

While both Lori and Jessica continue to do well, Lori will have to remain on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life.