LOS ANGELES --Lupe Villanueva and Frank Ibarra grew up in the same neighborhood. But as children, they never met.
They wouldn't meet until adulthood, reunited for a common cause.
Villanueva was adopted, and for the past 20 years searched for her biological family. One day, her workplace was comparing baby pictures.
"I brought mine in and a co-worker said, 'Oh my God. You and my husband could be brother and sister,'" Villanueva said.
It turns out Villanueva knew Ibarra. They were cousins or so she thought. But it took another 17 years and a call from a half-sister for the truth to come out.
"She said, 'Frank's your brother,'" said Villanueva, who was shocked to find out the news.
That one moment was a key discovery for Ibarra, who had been undergoing dialysis for kidney failure at UCLA Medical Center. After nearly two years, his doctor said he needed an emergency kidney transplant.
The two were a nearly 100 percent match.
Villanueva volunteered her kidney for the surgery, which took place three days ago. Friday is Ibarra's 53rd birthday.
The act of kindness has brought the two closer than ever.
"We're always thinking the same thing. It's just been amazing, totally unexplainable amazing," Ibarra said.
If nothing else, they call their story divine intervention.
"It's the gift of life, second chance of life," Ibarra said.