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Goodrich sisters share the gift of life -- 68% of a liver

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 6:58 PM EDT
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GOODRICH, Mich. (WJRT) - The term sisterhood took on an entirely new meaning for sisters who were born and raised in Goodrich.

Now living thousands of miles apart, Angie Herek was in need of a liver transplant. But little did she know, her match was a lot closer than she thought.

Around five or six years ago, Herek was diagnosed with primary sclerosis cholangitis -- a chronic disease of the bile ducts that can cause liver damage.

“At first it wasn’t anything we shared because I was in the early stages and it varies from person to person,” she said.

Herek brushed it aside until about a year ago, when she started getting infections in the duct area. That’s when her medical team advised she be put on the liver transplant list.

“One of the things they had mentioned was that you can have a living donor, and that the liver regenerates and will regrow,” she said.

So now Herek needed a match. She put the call out to family, friends and colleagues. What happened next, she never saw coming.

“My daughter said to me -- and she was 12 at the time -- she goes, ‘Mom, I can be aunt Angie’s liver donor.’ I was like I don’t think you can, but I can,” said Elizabeth Haller, who is Angie’s sister.

She was a match. What followed? Extensive testing and blood work and then on July 1, Elizabeth donated 68% of her liver to her sister at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.

“It was interesting. We were told Liz would have a harder recovery in the beginning, but then mine I would feel great right away because I have a new organ,” Herek said.

Haller said her recovery wasn’t bad and watching her sister improve made it even better.

“When you sneeze, you feel everything,” she said. “But those are minor compared to seeing her color, seeing her smile, seeing her energy.”

Both sisters are doing great today. It will take about eight weeks for Haller’s liver to regenerate. But their story isn’t done.

“It’s really important that people realize you can donate organs as a living donor,” Haller said.

Both sisters have received a slew of community support. Herek lives in Williamston outside Lansing and Liz lives in Atlanta, Ga. -- thousands of miles apart, but still attached at the hip in one way.

“God’s been with us the whole time and our faith has definitely brought us through some pretty tricky times and will continue to move us forward,” Herek said.

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