Man travels 7,500 miles to donate kidney to cousin

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SAN DIEGO – A 30-year-old San Diego woman was told by doctors she needed a kidney transplant  – and when her parents turned out to be non-matches, they reached out to family in the Philippines.

That’s when Paulo Pono stepped up in a big way.

Bianca Santos and her cousin Pono have a history together. The cousins were thick as thieves growing up in the Philippines.

“We used to live in the same subdivision,” said Pono. “I used to pick her up from school with her mom.”

A rare disorder struck Santos at the age of 10 causing her kidneys to slowly fail. In search of better medical attention, her family moved to the United States.

Two years ago, Santos, a Qualcomm engineer, received devastating news that she was in need of a kidney transplant and that it could take years to find a donor.

Pono said before his father died, he promised that he would help Santos when the time came. He kept to his promise and flew to San Diego to have the surgery to donate his kidney.

Doctors at Sharp Memorial Hospital performed the successful surgeries.

“He sacrificed a lot for me and I’m very thankful for that,” Santos said.


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