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Don Thomas is a longtime regular at the Hooters in Roswell. But it’s not the beer or the chicken wings that bring him back. Instead, it’s the generosity of one of the waitresses. “Mariana had only been here a short time,” Thomas said. “I just barely knew her when she made the offer.” The offer was the gift of life. Thomas lost both his kidneys. “I said, ‘Well I have two kidneys, do you want one of mine?'” said Mariana Villarreal, a waitress at Hooters. “My reply was, ‘I will accept it,'” Don said.

Mariana doesn’t know Don outside of work. But she feels a higher calling. Her grandmother recently passed away from kidney failure. “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, one of the program directors of the Piedmont Transplant Institute, said both donor and recipient should be able to live healthy lives after the surgery. “You can live your whole life with one just kidney,” Pollinger said, “You only need one kidney for normal kidney function.” Mariana hopes her story will inspire others to donate organs to those in need. “A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is – relatively – to give someone a new life,” said Chris Bond with the Georgia Transplant Foundation. Don will have a new life. Thanks to a special bond born at the unlikeliest of places.

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