A Hooters waitress in Fulton County, Georgia, is being hailed a hero for donating one of her kidneys to a Vietnam War veteran and says Jesus inspired her to do it.
Mariana Villarreal, 22, is recovering in a local hospital following an operation that took place on Friday as part of her decision to donate a kidney to Don Thomas, 72, who's a longtime regular customer at the Hooters in Roswell where she works. Waiting staff at Hooters are attractive young women called "Hooter Girls." They play up their sex appeal through revealing outfits that are part of the company's branding.
"Thank you all for your prayers of fast recovery. God has listen and he's doing a great job! Thank you Lord for giving me the opportunity to give life to someone you died for years ago. What you did for humanity inspired me the most!" Villarreal wrote on Instagram where strangers have been bombarding her with supportive messages and praising her for the random act of kindness.
It all started with a prayer to God a few months ago when the married waitress lost her beloved grandmother to kidney failure.
"I wasn't able to do anything for my grandma," Villarreal told WXIA-TV. "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."
Villarreal met Thomas, who has been a regular at Hooters for 10 years, within three months of working at the popular restaurant just before her grandmother died.
After witnessing her grandmother die from kidney failure, a grieving Villarreal felt compelled to donate one of her kidneys and turned to God for guidance.
During one particular visit to Hooters, Thomas shared with Villarreal that he had lost his wife to breast cancer in recent years and that he was suffering kidney failure, the same illness that took her grandmother. The father of two previously lost both kidneys to cancer and Villarreal wanted to help give him a normal life.
"After three months of working there and knowing him God answered my prayer but most important answered his prayer of years!" she wrote via Instagram. "I've been praying for God to answer me if donating one of my kidneys was the right thing to do and The Don was praying for a donor that may have never appeared."
The surgery was a success and shortly afterwards, Villarreal told her 1,000 Instagram followers that her kidney was "a PERFECT match." She thanked the public for the overwhelming support she has received and gave all glory to God.
"He sent me to this world to serve Him and others and as a daughter of God I offered him one of my kidneys. Many people think I'm crazy because of the age difference but then again age is just a number, it's how young your heart is and your desire to live," she wrote. "I know God will watch over us for the rest of our lives and may the glory always be for the Lord of lords! Once again thank you all!"
She continued: "If he can live two more year the happiest he's ever been without having to sit in a room three times a week filtering his blood for eight hours and finally have a full glass of water or finally get to pee again then go ahead take my kidney. I know God will give him way more years to come. All I ask is for prayers and for all of you to be thankful that you're healthy and alive because some people do have it worst! #godisgood."
Villarreal responded to critics who openly questioned her kindness and generosity and clarified that she was not paid for the selfless act.
"NO he's not paying me for a kidney or tips me really good, just to clarify! He's just an ordinary person with the desire to live a few more years," she wrote.
On Sunday Villarreal shared that both she and Thomas are recovering. She has since been released from hospital and will spend six weeks at home before returning to work.
"So today Don used the bathroom by himself for the first time in five years! He was so proud of himself that he began to cry!" she wrote. "Apparently we broke a record on how fast my kidney started working."
She said that she hopes that her life-changing decision will inspire others to donate organs.
"My higher calling maybe wasn't for my grandma but for a complete stranger," she said.
A Go Fund Me Page has been launched to help both Villarreal and Thomas as they recover from their surgeries.
"As a waitress I don't make a lot of money and I will be out for the next six weeks so any donations for me or for Don would be greatly appreciated," she wrote via the campaign.
"Just got off the phone with Don and you can hear his happiness with every word he says. He told me that he will be release no later than Tuesday and he's ready to go back to Hooters."