Living sister donates part of liver to sick brother: ‘A lot of excitement and hope’

‘This is the biggest gift that anybody could ever receive’

“They said that as far as the numbers were concerned, the odds were I had a 50% chance to live two years or longer,” said Barry Zilun.

The gift of life is an incredible thing, and one local man is about to find out firsthand.

He’s sick and a transplant is the only thing that could save his life.

“They said that as far as the numbers were concerned, the odds were I had a 50% chance to live two years or longer,” said Barry Zilan.

Those were pretty shocking words to hear. The 40-year-old was diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver just over a year ago. Now he’s on the transplant list waiting for the right match.

“A person gets that, you know, it’s a combination of lifestyle choice as well as possible genetic predisposition,” he explained. “But it comes down to, you know, life choices and things that I’ve done with my life, you know? I partied pretty hard.”

As you can imagine, the news has hit not only him hard but whole his family in Wixom.

“It was terrifying, definitely for myself and the whole family,” said Julia Smith.

But then, an angel stepped in to help. Barry’s sister, Julia, had heard that being a living donor was a possibility. Instead of letting him wait for a liver from a deceased donor, she stepped up to the plate. Their blood type was a match.

“Absolutely just in shock, but like in a very positive way,” said Barry. “She -- I never asked. She went about this in doing all her research herself.”

“Of course a little bit nervous but honestly there is a lot of excitement and hope,” said Julia. “This could be it and he could walk away once all this is said and done and live a happy, healthy life.”

Barry’s health condition puts him in the high risk group for coronavirus complications, so he’s spent the past few months in isolation. Now he’s getting ready for a life changing surgery that will save his life all thanks to his sister.

“I love him,” said Julia. “I am beyond grateful that I have this opportunity to help in such a huge way. We need him around for many more years so he can continue the goodness that he does for this world.”

“Thank you and I love you and I know you don’t ever expect me to repay you but this is the biggest gift that anybody could ever receive from anybody,” said Barry.

And when we say he’s “getting ready” for surgery, he really is. Barry has been clean and sober since July of last year. He’s exercising regularly and has lost 60 pounds. He and his sister want his story to serve as a lesson and a way to encourage people to sign up to be an organ donor.

There are a lot of medical costs associated with this procedure. If you’d like to help, please go here.

About the Author:

Evrod Cassimy is the morning anchor for Local 4 News Today. He joined WDIV in August of 2013. He is an award winning journalist and a six-time Emmy Award nominee. Evrod was born in Michigan but grew up in the Chicagoland area.