Update: Austintown man losing weight to save his mother's life
**UPDATE: A matching donor was found for Linda Ilitch and she had her transplant surgery. The family says she is doing well and healing at home.
Showing remarkable dedication and selflessness in the face of adversity, Ben Ilich was determined to save his mother's life by giving her a portion of his liver.
But first, he had to lose 50 pounds.
"I don't think anyone in their right mind would like to see a family member, brother, sister, and mother for sure sit in quiet agony waiting on a list you know, there's lots of other people out there that need a liver, kidneys and so on and so forth like that and to me this was a no-brainer, as soon as the doctor said something about it, I said alright, let's go, what do we got to do," Ben Ilich said.
It's been about a year since Linda Ilich found out her liver was failing. The family believes some kind of long-term infection was the culprit and she was placed on the transplant list, waiting for a new liver.
Her son, Ben, was tentatively a match, but doctors didn't like how much he weighed.
"I told them I was 305 pounds and they said, well, before we even bring you in for any kind of testing, we want you to lose 50 pounds," Ben said. "I'm not leaving this up to the universe, we got to get this done."
Undeterred, Ben immediately started working with Phil Albenze at Body By Phil in Austintown.
"It moved me in a monumental way," Albenze said. "Helping their mother in such a profound manner really kind of pulled at the heartstrings. This wasn't just a challenge any more, this became a life mission and something we just simply can't fail at."
Ben's fighting spirit has inspired his brother Mike to join him in a show of support.
Four nights a week, the two go through high intensity workouts to maximize calorie burn and shed the weight as fast as possible. Ben lost 25 pounds in the first two weeks alone.
"My mother means everything to me," Ben said. "There is no replacing that woman, so whatever we gotta do. Nothing that is worth doing is easy. I am looking at this at this point like this is something we have to do, easy or hard, win lose or draw, this is something that needs to be done."
"The fact that his brother Mike is out here with him is a show of support because its really hard and it's hitting the whole family and the way that they all bound together and are working together is just absolutely moving and the show of support has been unbelievable to watch these men train, there are so many times where I'll say ok guys, five more and they are like no, ten, twenty more and they just push each other and I stand back in awe," Albenze said.
While he was fighting for his mother's life, Ben says she remained humble and quietly supportive throughout his incredible challenge.
"She's a very quiet woman and she wouldn't come out and say anything about it, every once in awhile she comes out and gives me a great big hug and says I love you and that's good enough," Ben said.
A testament to the power of love and the lengths a person will go to protect their family.
Ben lost about 40 pounds, but during that journey, a matching donor was found for Linda and she had her transplant. She is resting at home and doing well.
For Ben and Mike, they have no plans to stop losing weight and will continue to work with Phil. While the goal and motivation was to save mom, now they are focusing on themselves to become healthier and fitter.