It’s 3 on a Saturday afternoon in Camino. It’s a little gloomy outside but the mood at Eric and Amy Soik’s house is anything but somber. Ash from a nearby fire is falling down on their guests but nobody seems to mind.
The Soiks and their guests share laughter and stories like they’ve been friends for years. From watching the conversations shared, one would never guess that just a few months ago, things weren’t looking so bright for the Soiks or their guests.
All of this traces back to the UC Davis hospital, where Eric was placed in a room next to Mike Navarec. Soik, a 55-year-old from Camino, had never met the 67-year-old Navarec, who is from Stockton, but they both had the same problem.
Eric first found out that he had kidney issues when he was 21 years old. It didn’t develop into a serious issue until recently and he was getting weaker.
“I was so far gone. They gave me probably six months. I didn’t have much left,” Eric said. This has been a 35-year problem and in the past three years it got pretty bad.”
Navarec wasn’t doing well either.
“I was diagnosed with 20 percent kidney function and it came all the way down to 7 percent and that’s when it got really serious,” Navarec said. “That all happened within a period of two years.”
“When you’re that far gone, you’re close to death,” Eric said. “You can’t do anything.”
And that’s when a miracle happened.
Both men needed kidneys — urgently.
However, neither of them could find a match within their families.
Then a serendipitous thing happened. Navarec’s daughter was a match for Eric and the UC Davis hospital team was able to find a woman in Siberia who was a match for Navarec, and willing to donate.
The Siberian woman was the mother of a kidney recipient and wanted to give the gift of life to someone else. The hospital was able to arrange a series of connections, where Navarec would receive the kidney from the woman in Siberia and Eric would receive the kidney of Michelle Roley, Navarec’s daughter.
In a matter of 72 hours, Eric and Navarec had completed surgery and were on their way back to recovery.
While in the hospital together, the men bonded and now that they’re both back to full health, the two recipients, the donor and their spouses are forever linked.
Fast forward to 3 p.m. on Saturday — the Soiks, the Navarecs and the Roleys are enjoying a get together at the Soiks’ house in Camino. Their teenage children are hanging out while the adults are reminiscing on all that has transpired in the past few months, from Eric and Mike being close to death to now being healthier than ever with a new glow about them.
“I’ve noticed that ever since I got Michelle’s kidney, I’ve become a better listener,” Eric chuckled. “They also had to cut into my stomach and insert the kidney through there, so I have a whole new appreciation for C-sections.”
A few months ago Eric didn’t know if he was going to live to see his 16-year-old daughter graduate from El Dorado High School; now he has been given a whole new chance at life, a chance that he doesn’t take for granted. Taking a pause in his conversation, he looks around at his surroundings, soaking it all in.
“This has just been a blessing,” he said.