‘Part of our family now’: Heart donor’s mom meets Kentwood recipient

Kent County

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — Christmas came early for two women on Friday when a Kentwood woman met her heart donor’s mother for the first time in Ann Arbor.

When Marcia Hoda’s daughter, Jessica Koperski, died after a crash last year, she knew she wanted to use her life to save another. That life is Lauren Herrera.

Growing up, Herrera’s life was far from easy. At 4 months old, she went into congestive heart failure.

Christmas came early for two women on Friday as a Kentwood woman met her heart donor’s mother for the first time in Ann Arbor. (Dec. 10, 2021)

“The first thing my mom noticed when I was born was that my breathing was different,” Herrera said. “… my heart at four months was the size of a 4-year-old.”

Throughout her life, things were tough. She went into heart failure for a second time at 13 and had a stroke on her 26th birthday.

“It just kept getting worse, got to the point where I couldn’t even go upstairs to my bedroom. I had to sit on the couch to sleep because I was just exhausted. I couldn’t remember if I even ate that day because I was mentally and physically not even there,” Herrera said.

It got to the point where she needed a new heart or she wasn’t going to make it.

“(On) June 5, 2020, I finally got my heart. It was pure happiness,” Herrera said.

In June of last year, Koperski’s life ended far too soon. She was 35 years old, a nursing assistant and a mother of four.

“She was my first daughter. She really was a perfect child,” Hoda said. “They were driving, apparently her husband fell asleep and went off the road and when it came back on, just started flipping.”

“For me looking at it, before he even said anything, I knew it was un-survivable, so my next thought was donation,” Hoda said.

Even though the donation stemmed from a devastating situation, Hoda says she’s grateful.

“I’m just so happy that it’s given her a new life. It just seems like she’s able to do so much more with her life than she did before and I’m just so happy for her. I feel like she’s sort of part of our family now,” Hoda said.

These two say they’ll continue having a relationship for years to come.

You can learn more about the Gift of Life Michigan online.

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