Never underestimate the kindness of strangers.
This is a lesson that Hooters waitress Mariana Villarreal from Roswell, Georgia imparted on one of her customers in a big way. Last week, Villarreal donated one of her kidneys to Don Thomas, a regular patron at the restaurant.
Their saga began in a rather unassuming way. While providing her usual stellar service, she casually asked Thomas the next time he’d be in and visit her.
Don Thomas had a very grim prognosis after losing both of his kidneys to cancer. Luckily for him, Villarreal, a new hire at the chain’s Roswell location approximately 23 miles from Atlanta, had an extra kidney to spare.
“Mariana had only been here a short time,” Thomas said. “I just barely knew her when she made the offer.” An offer that would give him a new lease on life.
“I said, ‘Well I have two kidneys, do you want one of mine?’” Mariana Villarreal said, according to WXIA-TV.
“My reply was, ‘I will accept it,’” Don said.
Mariana said she doesn’t know Don outside of the restaurant, but felt like she was being called to help him. Her grandmother had recently died from kidney failure, and she wasn’t able to help her, so she wanted to help someone else.
“I wasn’t able to do anything for my grandma,” Mariana said, “If [Don] can live two more years, happy as he’s ever been, that’s fine with me. That’s not up to me. I did my part, now it’s God’s turn to keep him alive.”
Dr. Harrison Pollinger, a program director at the Piedmont Transplant Institute, said both Villarreal and Thomas should be able to live perfectly healthy lives following the surgery.
“You can live your whole life with one just kidney,” Pollinger said, “You only need one kidney for normal kidney function.”
Don says he is beyond grateful for Mariana’s generosity.
“Mariana and I are just two normal people,” Thomas said, according to the New York Daily News, “one who needs help – me – and Mariana, who is so willing to give help.”
Villarreal said she hoped her story will inspire more people to consider organ donation.