Twinsburg — Two men bonded through friendship now share a much closer connection of blood and sacrifice. Ravenna Road resident Ryan Crecco, 36, learned that he was suffering from kidney failure and required an organ donor, he wasn’t expecting Octavian Maianu, a close friend of 10 years from Macedonia, to step forward and make the crucial, life-saving decision.
In 2011, Crecco went in for a routine dentist appointment and was told his blood pressure was dangerously high and that he needed to see a doctor.
“I didn’t have a doctor at that point,” Crecco said. “We found one, they did the initial tests and they did not like what they saw. Everything started pointing toward kidney problems.”
Though initially surprised that a man in his mid-30s would be suffering from kidney failure, Crecco learned his condition was not as rare as he had assumed.
“It seems, actually, to be not so out of the blue,” Crecco said. “Obviously, with me, we don’t know where it came from. I have no family history of it. I was beside myself, I denied it for the first number of months dealing [with it]. But interestingly, it’s not as uncommon as I first thought.”
By 2013, Crecco was on dialysis and waiting for a new kidney. It was at that point that Maianu, 35, volunteered to be tested as a donor. Both Maianu and his wife Jenni turned out to be matches, but pre-existing kidney conditions took Jenni out of the running. Maianu was left as the primary donor.
“I had to think about it for a while before I went to get tested to be the donor,” Maianu said. “I’m kind of cautious and I like to do research before I really do anything. I came to the conclusion that I should go forward with this.
I was excited to be able to offer that kidney,” Maianu added. “It was amazing, just the small likelihood of me even being a match to begin with.”
The transplant operation was performed Aug. 20. Crecco, who had been in and out of operations for his dialysis several times in past months, said he was was calm going into the operating room. Maianu, less familiar with surgery, was more the uncomfortable of the two.
“I have to say, my experience with doctors and hospitals was almost zero,” Maianu said. “I haven’t so much as broken a bone. I tried to be tough about it but I was scared. I was definitely nervous but the doctors were really comforting and I had a whole bunch of family and friends there so I definitely had a lot of support going in.”
“On the day of transplant, I was actually more relaxed that Octavian was,” Crecco said. “I was just in there in March and May.”
Following the surgery, both men remained in the Cleveland Clinic on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland for several weeks, recovering from the operation as their organs adjusted to their new hosts. Maianu said they were kept in separate rooms but were able to visit each other within days.
“It was pretty amazing seeing him afterwards and hearing from the doctors that the kidney had connected really well and started working immediately,” Maianu said.
Missing a kidney is not an exceptionally difficult experience, Maianu said. He was able to return to work two weeks after the operation as an academic advisor at the Kent State Regional Academic Center in Twinsburg.
“Initially, it was tough,” Maianu said Oct. 4. “You’re under anesthesia and you’re getting out of that. But after about a week and a half, I started improving pretty quickly. That one kidney adjusts to being by itself almost immediately. It’s mostly getting over the cuts and wounds from the surgery. I would say I’m just about 100 percent back to normal. I really feel like I haven’t even had a surgery. I feel absolutely great.”
Crecco’s recovery was less rapid than Maianu’s but briefer than expected. A general kitchen and bathroom remodeling contractor in the Hudson and Broadview heights area, Crecco said he was able to return to work less than two months after the surgery.
“[The new kidney] just worked right away, there were no complications,” Crecco said Oct. 4. “I give credit to the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic and I give credit to Octavian for giving me a great kidney. Everything has just gone extremely smooth. I figured it would be two to three months until I’d actually get back to work. It’s only been six weeks and a couple days and I’ve already back to work for about a week on light duty.”
With their lives returning to normal and Crecco’s condition improving rapidly, Maianu and Crecco reflect on the act of solidarity that saved a life and brought them closer as friends.
“It was a huge bonding experience,” Maianu said. “We were good friends before ... but we are, I would say, definitely brothers now, in a pretty deep way.”
“As well as bringing us closer together ... I have been changed physically and spiritually,” Crecco said. “I’ve got a new chance at life. Obviously, for my family, that’s really important. Octavian, he’s freely given and sacrificed his body for me. I don’t take that lightly.”