Derek Mosley talks about how family, friends and faith helped him battle through his near-death experience when contracting the coronavirus.
AMY GRAU, COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR
CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
Many of us may have hundreds, even thousands, of friends who we regularly follow on social media. And, from that larger group, there is usually a good handful of people who we closely follow – we want to know what is going on every day in their lives when we can’t be with them. For me, Derek Mosley is one of those people.
A Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge, a “foodie” and promoter of local restaurants, a DONATE LIFE organ donor recipient and advocate, a community supporter, public speaker and wedding officiant, a parishioner at St. Sebastian Parish in Milwaukee, as well as a sixth-grade girls’ basketball coach at the parish school for his daughter’s team — he is an all-around inspiration to so many, including me. Derek always has something inspiring to share, and I look for his posts on social media almost every day.
In late March, when I didn’t see him responding or sharing on social media, I got a little worried. That was not like him. My mind started racing. I know he had a kidney transplant four years ago; so he has a compromised immune system. Also, he is one of the most “huggy” people I know. Bump into him somewhere, and he almost lifts you up with a big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. Putting the two together when living through coronavirus, I told myself, “Let’s not jump to conclusions.”
Days passed, and a not word from him. The 6,000 people who follow him on social media started to notice. “Derek, hope you are OK. Derek, where you at? Derek, why aren’t you picking up your phone? Dude, we miss you.” Dozens of shout-outs with no response.
I said I’d give it one more day, but my worry after this realization made me reach out to him immediately. I texted him, “Derek, are you OK?” No response. I tried again, and two days later, he texted back, “I am in the ICU with the coronavirus.”
Derek spent eight days in the ICU. He said, despite his past medical procedures, including a kidney transplant, he has never felt closer to death than he had during his time fighting the virus. Derek explained, “I had felt death before when I was told I had end-stage renal disease, and if I did not get a transplant, I would die. At no time, did I think I was going to die on the table. I know they do this procedure all over the world, and it was going to be fine. But, this was different, because every time a nurse came into the room they had to get completely geared up. The doctors would call me on the phone and talk to me from outside the room. Right there, you know something is seriously wrong.”
During his time in the ICU, Derek was alone most of the time. “When you are alone a lot, you just start thinking. The thing that got to me, which put it all into perspective, was when the doctor came in and said, ‘Your blood oxygen level is way too low, and it’s not coming up. This is the stage in this process where some people get better and some people plummet. We are at that stage. I need you to lay on your stomach so we can open up your airways, and hope your oxygen comes up.’”
While laying on his stomach for days, Derek prayed. “It was interesting, because my initial prayer to God was to help me get through this. Then, I got to a point when I thought, ‘If it’s my time, then, God, please take care of my family. Make sure my wife is fine, my kids are good, that they will be strong and will be able to get through this.’ The nurse came in and brought in an iPad so I could Facetime my family, and I knew what I was fighting for. That was the main inspiration behind fighting so hard.”
Derek’s father passed away from a heart attack. When asking if he prayed to those who have gone before him for support, in addition to God, Derek shared a dream he had when he was initially showing symptoms of the coronavirus at home prior to being admitted to the ICU: “Before I got tested, and I was at home not feeling well, I went to sleep that night, and I felt someone hit my shoulder, like they were trying to wake me up. I woke up, and it was my dad. My dad has been dead for about 12 years. I looked up, and all he said to me was, ‘You are really going to have to fight now.’ I had no idea at that point what he meant. The next day, I was not feeling well, and my doctor said to go in. It was at that point when I realized what he was talking about. I have only told a couple people about this. He came and looked after me.”
From the point Derek tested positive to the day he finally tested negative took 30 days. Since there is no cure, they treat individual symptoms. Once they treat the symptoms, they release you to the COVID-19 floor, where they monitor you for a day or two and make you walk around. Once you are able to walk around, you’re on the right path to being released. After being released, it was another 15 days or so for Derek to be able to shed the disease. He needed two negative COVID-19 tests after that to be deemed COVID-free: “The COVID test –they take a giant Q-tip [when describing the tip, he extends his hands out about a foot apart] with no fluffy stuff on the end, and they shove it up your nose until it scratches the back of your head. It is a pain that I can’t describe. They scrape around for 15 seconds. I had that test four times. It is awful.”
As you may guess, this experience has changed his life. He reflects back on what kept him motivated in the ICU – his family: “I leave for work, and then I usually give a speech after work or have a board meeting. There are all these things I have going on. Sometimes, I don’t come home until 7:30 or 8 p.m. By then, my kids are getting ready to head off to bed. Everyone was good with it – they understood. But now, I enjoy the fact that my family is here. We play cards, we watch movies together, we play in the backyard. I appreciate this time to reset and enjoy the things I have and sometimes take for granted. It’s not going to stop me from doing the things I like to do in the community, to make the community better. But, it is nice to have this time to refresh.”
Moving forward together within our communities during this pandemic, Derek stresses the importance of taking this virus seriously. Unfortunately for him, he was a personal example to many of how potentially deadly this virus is. As he continues to teach others about the importance of donating organs through his personal experience of receiving a kidney transplant, Derek teaches thousands of people every February about Black History Month by offering daily stories and unknown facts, and now through his personal struggle of surviving the coronavirus, he is a person who continues to take a hardship and turn it into a positive lesson to share with others.
As for his social media following, we are happy to have him back: “It was overwhelming, but overwhelming in a good way. Hearing from people asking where I am, if I am OK, why I have not posted in a while, it made me see that there are people out there who genuinely care. I fought for them. It gave me motivation to keep going and to keep moving.”