Derek’s Story: Finally free from dialysis

There are few things Derek Mosley cherishes more than Christmas morning with his family, but for two years, the Milwaukee County municipal judge was hooked up to a dialysis machine and couldn’t be by the family tree as his kids opened their gifts.

“Two years of dialysis, seven days a week, 10 hours a day,” Derek said. “All that mattered to me was that I didn’t miss a treatment, and I did it all while still being a judge.”

Derek’s kidney transplant in 2016 set him free. The 47-year-old judge compared being on dialysis to being incarcerated.

“I had a sentence to serve, and it was through that machine, but I was grateful because I knew it was saving my life,” he said.

It all began for Derek in September 2014 when he suddenly became ill. His nephrologist put him on dialysis right away, and Derek had the machine placed in his bedroom.

“I didn’t get out much,” he said. “I would come home from work, eat a little something, get hooked up to the dialysis machine, and help my kids with their homework while I was attached to it.” Derek was also up for re-election and dialysis made campaigning difficult. He could no longer attend events in the evenings and had to give up teaching classes at Marquette Law School. He told very few people about his illness, only his family and close friends.

When Derek was on dialysis his nephrologist encouraged him to share his need for a kidney with family and friends to increase his chances of receiving a living donation. The wait for a deceased donor kidney on the national transplant waiting list is an average of three to five years at most transplant centers. It turned out his best friend, JoAnn Eiring, a municipal judge in the Town of Brookfield, was a match.

“I was completely floored,” Derek said. “She’s such a tiny woman. I am taller and weigh more.”

Also, Derek is African-American and JoAnn is Caucasian.

“I learned no matter what we look like, both our kidneys are pink,” Derek said.

While there was a difference in size between the donor and recipient, JoAnn’s kidneys were normal-sized, which gave Derek enough kidney mass.

On July 20, 2016, the transplant went smoothly for Derek and JoAnn. Six days later, Derek went home and packed up the dialysis machine for good.

“I was cutting the dialysis bags and dumping them,” he said. “Then I packed up the machine to ship back to the company. I can’t explain the feeling.”

Derek is forever grateful to his friend and care team for getting him healthy again, and he will never forget the first Christmas morning after his transplant.

“I texted JoAnn crying as I walked down the stairs because I was able to see my kids’ faces as they opened their gifts,” he said. “As a father, I never wanted them to see me as weak or helpless. Now I am strong for them.”