Kidney donor, recipient celebrate Memorial Day together

SIDNEY — It seemed fitting, somehow, that Debbie Johnson, of Cedarville, and Dan Cecil, of Sidney, celebrated Memorial Day together this year. A day set aside to honor all the heroes who paid the “ultimate” sacrifice during military service to their country. A day everyone is a little extra mindful of, and thankful for, the freedoms they enjoy every single day of the year.

Cecil would be quick to point out that his kidney donation pales in comparison to the sacrifices made by the heroes Ameicans celebrate on Memorial Day. But that wouldn’t stop Johnson from telling anyone who would listen about the personal sacrifice that her “forever hero” made for her and the new-found freedoms she enjoys because she no longer needs dialysis every day.

“We went to church with Debbie and her husband in Springfield before we moved to Sidney,” said Dan’s wife, Kim Cecil. “We were closer to Debbie’s in-laws at the church, but we ‘knew of’ Debbie and her husband Rod.

“We didn’t know she needed a kidney until Pastor John Young, Debbie’s brother-in-law and pastor of First Baptist Church in Sidney, asked for prayer for her at a Shelby County Ministerial Association meeting that Dan was attending. We prayed about it for a few days and decided to start the process just to see if Dan was a match for Debbie.

“Turns out they were extremely compatible, and the rest is history. Both of us have long been signed up to be organ donors once we die, but we had never even thought about being “living” organ donors until this need arose,” she said.

On Dec. 9, 2022, the transplant team at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center removed a healthy kidney from Dan and transplanted it into Debbie. As they approach the 6-month anniversary of their operations, both are healthy and happy, and they both cherish every opportunity they get to spend a little bit of time with each other and with each other’s families.

Dan will tell you that, physically, his life seems no different than it was before the operation. Emotionally, however, he derives great joy from seeing Johnson so healthy and happy. Debbie, too, beams with joy and thanksgiving when she tells friends, family, and acquaintances about how much her health and her quality of life have improved since the transplant.

Both will be quick to tell you that the need for living kidney donors is great. Over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month. Thirteen people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.

If this news tugs at your heartstrings, Debbie and Dan would encourage everyone to prayerfully consider investigating the possibility of becoming a living kidney donor. It costs nothing to learn more about it. If this interests you, visit