GREELEY, Colo. — What seemed to be a simple case of the flu soon turned into a nightmare for Dwight Randolph, an Aims Community College student, leading to the intensive care unit and life support. It also started a journey that would give him faith in humanity and the strangers that surround him.
Randolph said what started as a cough in January and chest pain soon worsened. A trip to the doctor's office that yielded a recommendation of rest and flu medicine soon spiraled out of control.
Not long after that doctor's visit, Randolph was unconscious and woke up on life support. Fluid flooded his lungs, his heart struggled and his kidneys failed.
Doctors in Greeley struggled to learn what went wrong inside the body of a seemingly healthy college student. Randolph studies physical fitness at the community college and even worked at the institution's gym to get extra exposure to his favorite activity: anything physical.
Soon, one doctor recognized the symptoms and ordered an array of tests that eventually confirmed his suspicions — Dwight had ANCA Vasculitis.
The autoimmune disease began eating away at the young man's organs, leading to emergency treatment, including dialysis.
“It attacks your organs. It attacked my kidneys and it attacked my lungs, but my lungs recovered fully," Randolph said.
A high dose of steroids knocked the disease into remission and Randolph began to recover ever so slightly. During the recovery, doctors noticed his kidneys had reached a point that they would never recover.
"It's really hard to find the words," Randolph said of learning he'd need new kidneys.
The two organs were devastated by the illness, damaged 75 percent, according to Randolph. Doctors told him he might never be able to stop dialysis, saying he would need a transplant.
Overwhelmed, Randolph attempted to resume his daily life, despite needing daily medical attention. But it didn't take long for one stranger to approach Randolph after noticing his face had disappeared from campus.
Kristian Reynolds, another Aims student who frequently worked out at the fitness center and was accustomed to seeing Randolph's face approached his fellow student to make sure he was okay.
Randolph said as soon as he told the man about his need for a kidney, Reynolds never hesitated, saying he would step up and donate his.
"I was happy. Excited. Nervous. It was overwhelming and crazy to think that somebody would do that," Randolph said.
It took about three months, but they eventually learned the two were a match.
"I actually found out a week before the surgery that he was a match," Randolph said. He noted doctors worked quickly to organize the surgery. "That's rare, it usually takes a lot longer.
From learning about his illness in January to receiving his new kidney on July 21, Randolph said the entire process has been a whirlwind. It wasn't hard to leave his illness behind.
"Waking up, I immediately felt excited. I felt better. I felt clearer."
The surgery came with one hangup. Doctors told Randolph his newly acquired kidney was working too well. Randolph actually passed out because he wasn't getting enough fluids to keep up with his new kidney.
He said most doctors told him his new kidney worked better than their own.
Although it took time, he's recovered from his surgery, and in just a month, he will be back in the gym.
Randolph said he is taking this experience and moving forward with the goal of helping others be healthy and inspiring others to have the courage to donate their organs when possible.
"We're going to try to spread the word, me and him."
In time, Randolph said he will become a personal trainer and receive a degree in exercise science.
“That will allow me to help other people become healthy and lead healthy lives.”
As for his donor, Randolph said the two are now close and will likely remain that way.
"It takes a real man and kind person to do what you're doing," Randolph said to Reynolds. "We developed a friendship that's going to last a lifetime.
"It means so much to me and I'm going to take this second chance and not waste it."