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Brothers Randy Fleet
and Dustin Mann after their successful kidney transplant.
Eleven years ago, an absent father dropped a bombshell on Randy Fleet and Dustin Mann. He introduced the two young men to each other and told them that they were brothers. Randy was 25 and Dustin was 15. Dustin had never met their father before, and neither one of them has seen him since. Their father can have little idea what he set in motion when he brought his two sons together.
Bonding with a brother who was also a stranger was awkward at first, especially for Dustin, who was a teenager when he met Randy for the first time. Then one day in the car, they discovered a strange familial connection. Both brothers are physically unable to burp — an uncommon medical condition that might result from a gastrointestinal or esophageal malfunction.
“It’s a weird thing to have in common,” Dustin said, “I always thought I was the only person in the world who couldn’t burp.” But, one weird thing was all it took. Soon Randy and Dustin felt more like brothers than strangers. Ten years later, another medical condition would seal their bond forever.
Randy, now 37, is an avid hiker and works as a project manager for an industrial supply company. In March 2009, what he thought were flu symptoms grew progressively worse until he decided to see a doctor. “I had difficulty breathing when I was in bed. I was coughing and throwing up. I just thought it was the flu,” Randy said.
“I had the doctor’s appointment at 2:30. By 3 I was home. At 9 that night I got a phone call from my doctor. He told me to go straight to the ER.” By 9 the next morning, Randy was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, a type of kidney disease that had progressed into complete kidney failure. He was put on dialysis and spent five days at Sharp Memorial Hospital. The ER doctors estimated that he would have lived about three more days if his doctor hadn’t sent him to the hospital.
Randy isn’t sure what prompted his doctor to go over his lab results that late in the evening. “I’ve always gone to Sharp because they are close to my house,” he said. Now, after that late evening phone call and a diagnosis that saved his life, Randy said he can’t imagine going anywhere else for his medical care.
Transplant coordinator Tammy Wright with patients Randy Fleet and Dustin Mann.
Randy was on hemodialysis from March through May and peritoneal dialysis from May through November. Dialysis was saving his life, but Randy wanted to get away from machines and back to hiking. Enter Tammy Wright, kidney-pancreas transplant coordinator at Sharp Memorial Hospital.
“Randy thought he was a normal 30-something man until … his kidneys failed rapidly. He didn’t even have time to think about dialysis because he needed it immediately. He was referred to the transplant center before he left the hospital,” Tammy said.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's transplant services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about transplant, visit Transplantation in Adult Health or read the Transplant News archive or attend a Kidney Transplant 101 class.