On Aug. 21, 21-year-old Matthew Hawkins, a Texas State University senior, donated a piece of his liver to save his stepfather’s life. Matt’s only concern was having withdrawals from Whataburger. His mom promised him some as soon as he could eat solids. Two days after his surgery, he got his wish.
A month after the surgery, on Sept. 21, Whataburger honored Hawkins by naming him a Whatahero and awarding him Whataburgers for a year.
Hawkins was a patient of University Transplant Center, a partnership between University Health System and UT Health San Antonio. He was the center’s 16th liver donor and one of only 23 living liver donors in Texas this year. Only three hospitals in Texas perform this type of surgery.
With 16 living liver donor transplants this year, University Transplant Center ranks No. 3 in the country in the number of procedures.
At the Whatabuger event, Tarunjeet S. Klair, M.D., assistant professor/clinical who performed the transplant surgery, praised the transplant team for increasing volumes in the past couple of years.
But, he added, “the fact remains that there will always be more patients on the transplant list than the number of transplants we can do. Therefore, we can never take our efforts for granted. We can never slow our efforts. We have to keep moving forward. Educating our patients and their families. Creating public awareness about living donor liver transplants. Removing the emotional, social and financial barriers to living donor liver transplants so that we can offer this to more and more of our patients.”
There are 160,000 people in the U.S. currently waiting for a liver transplant; nearly 1,500 of those are in Texas. Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list, and an average of 20 people die each day while waiting for a liver transplant.