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Daughter gives kidney to another, saves father

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Daughter gives kidney to another, saves father

Kidney transplant recipient, Deacon Mike Navarec, Sr.

Photo courtesy Navarec family/


POSTED May 8, 2014 1:53 a.m.

Taped on the door of Rebecca Cardenas’ office at St. Anthony of Padua Church is a simple flyer. But there’s nothing simple about the story behind the smiling two faces. Behind their contagious smiles is a story of love and self-sacrifice.

The man is Deacon Mike Navarec, Sr., 65, Cardenas’ brother-in-law, and the woman is his daughter, Michelle Roley. Navarec is the husband of Cardenas’ sister, Gloria.

The story began last year when Navarec needed a kidney transplant. After his diagnosis, he was set up for dialysis at home; at the same time, he was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. During that time, his daughter stepped forward and volunteered to donate one of her kidneys to her father. Unfortunately, their kidneys did not match.

But that was not the end of that story. As it turned out, Roley’s sacrificial offer still ended up helping his dad get a life-saving kidney transplant. How that surgical miracle transpired is, in itself, a story all its own.

After Roley’s kidney was found to be incompatible with her father’s organ, the Navarec family was informed that he can be put in a kidney-transplant pool. That pool “turned out to be a four-way chain,” explained Cardenas.

“A Good Samaritan came forward and that person matched one of the four people” in the pool who were waiting for matching donors, she said.

At the same time, relatives of the other three in the four-way chain turned out to be matching donors for the others, who were not their own relatives, in the chain group.

“So three of the donors were relatives of the recipients, but one was just a Good Samaritan,” said a happy Cardenas.

The transplant surgeries were performed at the University of Davis Medical Center on April 8, and all were declared successful.

So while her niece was unable to give her kidney to her father, “she was able to give hers to one of the three” who were waiting for a matching donor, said Mantecan Cardenas who is the assistant to Religious Education Coordinator, Sister Kathleen Garcia, at St. Anthony of Padua.

Today, during a 10 a.m. news conference at UC Davis Medical Center, the donors and recipients in the four-way kidney transplant chain will be revealed.

“It’s highly unusual that there are so many involved in one chain. Usually, there are three. This was four donors and four recipients. It’s only been done one other time, as far as I know. I was told that this was done once before and it was a big deal because they don’t do that many that often. All went to UC Davis. The transplant team there was just amazing,” Cardenas said.

Her brother-in-law was released from the hospital to recuperate at home four days after his surgery.

“He’s recovering now very well,” said Cardenas who is one of five siblings.

Navarec’s daughter, who donated her kidney to one of the four in the chain, will be off from work for four to six weeks for a period of recuperation.

“Dad’s recovery will be six months to a year to be in the clear of any rejection,” Roley wrote on the flyer. “We are two out of eight people in a chain that are cross matched for our kidneys.”

She added, “The person who started our chain is a Samaritan Donor; meaning that they are not donating for anyone specific that they know.”

The flyer was also the family’s way to ask for “prayers and well wishes during our surgery and recovery…. We are asking this of our friends, family and the transplant staff at UC Davis while we are under their care.”

The prayer on the flyer reads: “Lord, please guide the hands of the surgeons, be present with Mike, Michelle, Eric (Saik, organ recipient), and the other members of the transplant chain. Assist the member of the UC Davis Transplant Team who are caring for them. We ask that their bodies will be receptive to the changes that are occurring and that they will have a speedy recovery. We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Mike Navarec, Sr. is retired from Pilkington Glass (formerly Libbey-Owens-Ford) in Lathrop, and is on sick leave from being a deacon at the Presentation Catholic Church in Stockton. His daughter, the kidney donor, is married and the mother of two girls. Her family lives in Lockeford. She has also taken time off from her job as a physical therapist for special-needs children. Navarec’s wife, Gloria, used to work also in the office of Presentation Church under David Cordes who now works at St. Anthony in Manteca.

• • •

UC Davis kidney transplant recipient-donor pairs meet for the first time

The reunion event for the four kidney transplant recipients who exchanged organ donors in order to find matches will meet the good Samaritans whose kidneys they received, according to the media release from the UC Davis Health System.

The reunion will take place on the Sacramento campus of UC Davis in the outdoor courtyard between the Cypress Building and the Patient Support Services Building. Richard Perez, chief of transplant surgery at UC Davis, will address the advantages of living kidney donation and the important role of donor exchange in facilitating that process.

The other highlight will have the kidney recipients standing with their original kidney donors who were incompatible due to mismatched blood types or antibodies. The donors will then be rearranged to reveal the recipient they actually helped. This is to illustrate how the exchange worked.

According to Sierra Donor Services, 18 people die each day in the U.S. waiting for kidney transplants and another person is added to the wait list every 13 minutes. At UC Davis – the only kidney transplant program in inland, Northern California – there are nearly 1,200 patients waiting for the gift of life through deceased kidney donation. Living donation can reduce their wait times. Paired exchange, which occurs when two or more kidney recipients switch living donors, is becoming an increasingly important way to speed up the match process and reduce wait times even further.

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