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 at Froedtert Hospital 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. It turned out his best friend, JoAnn Eiring, a municipal judge in the Town of Brookfield, was a match.
“I was completely floored,” said Derek. “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.
The Froedtert Hospital Live Kidney Donor Program meets the critical need for innovation in kidney transplants. Donors need to be willing and motivated but do not need to be biologically related to the recipient. They undergo extensive testing to ensure it is medically and psychologically safe for them to donate a kidney.
Ehab Saad, MD, was Derek’s nephrologist. When Derek was on dialysis, Dr. Saad 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 is in a patient’s best interest to seek a living donor,” said Dr. Saad. “It is a scheduled surgery so it less stressful on the patient, there is more control over the circumstances of the kidney transplant and the outcome for a living donation is better than in the case of a deceased donation.”
If a family member or friend is not a match, there are other options for a living kidney donation. Froedtert Hospital participates in several national paired kidney exchange programs. In a kidney exchange, a donor with an incompatible recipient is willing to donate a kidney to another recipient who has an incompatible donor. The recipients will exchange donors to achieve a compatible match.
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 and JoAnn threw a party on the first anniversary of their transplant. Their entire care team attended. Derek said he felt like he was more than just a number.
“I know they see hundreds of patients and do hundreds of transplants, but they made me feel like my transplant was the most important,” he said.
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.”
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