Daughter Gives Mom 'Most Amazing' Mother's Day Gift by Saving Her Life with Liver Donation

Daughter Gives Mom 'Most Amazing' Mother's Day Gift by Saving Her Life with Liver Donation
·6 min read

An Indiana mother who gave her daughter the gift of life is now receiving that very same gift after both underwent a live organ donation.

Lori and Jessica Herbert have always had a close relationship, but after Jessica donated a part of her liver to her mom this past February, they're now as close as it gets.

"I told her she never had to buy me another birthday or mother's day gift ever," Lori, 59, tells PEOPLE. "To know that your daughter had gone through so much just to save you, you can't even begin to think of the words to describe how you feel."

"It's the most amazing thing I've ever done," adds Jessica, 34. "I was just thinking, 'I'm doing this for my mom. I'm going to save my mom.' I was always one hundred percent in, no matter what."

Jessica Goss Jessica and Lori Herbert

Jessica Goss Lori and Jessica Herbert with their scars from the transplant

Lori says she has struggled with liver issues since she was 17. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a condition where the buildup of fat in the liver leads to inflammation and damage, according to Stanford Health Care.

Though the condition is similar to liver disease — which typically affects long-term, heavy drinkers — NASH only occurs in people who do not abuse alcohol, the outlet stated.

Over the years, Lori's doctors attempted to mend her liver in different ways, including a diet change and a gastric sleeve procedure, but nothing worked.

Her liver ultimately became so damaged that it went into cirrhosis. By April 2019, doctors delivered the heartbreaking news that Lori's liver was "quickly failing" and she would need a transplant in order to survive.

"My liver levels were elevated and wouldn't come back down," she recalls. "The doctors had given me zero to five years to live and said it was time to put me on the transplant list."

The liver has a unique ability to regenerate, meaning that the live donor and recipient will both develop healthy, full organs after a transplant, according to Columbia Surgery. In a majority of cases, liver donors are related to the recipient, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) reported.

Jessica Goss Jessica as a baby with Lori

RELATED: This Doctor and Mom Donated Part of Her Liver to Her Son in Rare Living Transplant

After realizing this through their own research, Jessica says she and her sister, Jennifer, immediately offered to be Lori's donor — but it was Jennifer who initially appeared to be a match.

"I was disappointed at first when I thought Jen was the perfect match because I thought, from the beginning, it was always going to be me for some reason," admits Jessica. "I just kind of had that feeling [but] I don't know why."

As it turned out, Jennifer was unable to be the donor after testing positive for a clotting factor that would put both her and Lori at risk. With Jennifer officially ruled out, Jessica says she "stood up immediately" — and was soon confirmed as a perfect match.

"All that was in my mind [was] 'Let's get this done. She needs this done. I've got to save her, I can't lose her yet,'" Jessica recalls, sweetly adding to her mom, "You gave us life. It's the least I can do to give it back to you."

Jessica Goss Lori Herbert with her daughters Jessica and Jennifer

While Lori was "humbled" that Jessica would want to perform such a selfless act, the Indiana mom admits she was also worried to have her serve as donor.

"I had mixed emotions about it because that's my daughter, my baby, and I didn't want to have to worry about something happening to her because of me," Lori says through tears.

"I asked her over and over, 'Are you sure you want to do this?'" Lori continues. "She was always like, 'Yes, mom, I would do this for you a hundred times.' It's just amazing that my girls would be so generous and so sweet and so loving. I don't know what I did to deserve such love."

On Feb. 15, the mother-daughter duo officially had the transplant done at Indiana University Health University Hospital. The procedure was led by surgeon Dr. Chandrashekhar Kubal, who is also the surgical director of IU Health's Adult Liver Transplant Program.

"Lori has a great, supportive and loving family," Dr. Kubal tells PEOPLE. "Jessica was very easy to work with throughout the process and it was heartwarming to see the strong bond they have with each other."

Jessica Goss Lori and Jessica Herbert seeing each other for the first time post-operation

After waking up from the surgery, Lori admits it felt "strange" to have a part of Jessica's organ inside her, but both were incredibly grateful that everything went smoothly. The pair later reunited on the transplant floor in an emotional moment that was captured on video.

"I said, 'We did it,'" Jessica recalls of seeing her mom for the first time after surgery. "We survived and I was so thankful that I was able to do it and that we were both doing well."

As they continue to recover, Lori and Jessica look forward to marking more life milestones together, including their first Mother's Day post-op and Jennifer's upcoming August wedding in Hawaii.

Later down the line, they hope to make a family trip to one of Lori's "most favorite places," Universal Studios in Florida — something Lori says has since become possible thanks to her daughter's live organ donation.

Jessica Goss The Herbert family

"When you're given a diagnosis of zero to five years to live, you don't have a lot of hope for the future. You're just thinking, 'Okay, I just have to enjoy every single day,'" Lori says. "Now I feel like I look forward to things and I can plan for things."

"[My daughters] know I would do anything for them and obviously, they would do the same for me," she continues.

Adds Jessica: "I want people to know that this is a possibility. You can give your loved one the rest of their life, instead of zero to five years. And that is huge to me."

"Mom's just always been such an inspiration to me, just an incredible person in everything she does. She never let us down," Jessica goes on. "Everything that I know in life, that I've learned and that's instilled in me, I've learned from her. I'm very proud to be her daughter."

Those interested in becoming live organ donors can learn more information here.

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