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Judge Derek Mosley, and nurse who helped save his life, reflect on battle with COVID-19 one year later

Posted at 8:21 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 21:21:07-04

MILWAUKEE — Looking back on one year of the coronavirus pandemic is especially powerful for Milwaukee County Municipal Judge Derek Mosely, who nearly died from the virus last March.

Just months after beating the COVID-19, Judge Mosley shared his experience with TMJ4, including the nurse who helped save his life. We spoke with them again this week, to get a sense of how their perspective has shifted with time.

The friendship between Judge Mosley and nurse Christin Lissmann touched a nerve at a very difficult time.

“I've received messages from nurses and healthcare workers across the country, saying 'I saw the story about you and Christin,' and it made me realize why I do what I do,” said Judge Mosely. “'It’s been dark during these times, but thank you for sharing some light.'”

We first shared their story last year. When it was questionable whether Judge Mosley would survive another night in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Froedtert Hospital, Lissmann surprised him with a video-chat with his family, then stayed to hold his hand the whole night.

“It was just holding someone’s hand and being there for another human,” said Lissmann. “We’re all humans. This crosses racial barriers, income barriers, religious barriers. Any barrier that could exist.”

“That one touch and act of kindness can have an effect that you never would have thought,” said Judge Mosley.

After 12 days in the ICU, Judge Mosley survived COVID-19. Luckily, he’s not a 'long-hauler': He’s had no long-term side effects, but says he did initially experience a brain frog and forgetfulness.

To this day though, he does experience some minor symptoms of PTSD after what he went through.

“When I was in the hospital and my blood oxygen got to such a low level, this beep would go off, and it would wake you up out of your sleep,” said Judge Mosley. “You would know your oxygen level is too low. To this day, when I hear a beep from the microwave, or from a phone or TV show, it makes me jump. Subconsciously, it takes me back to the ICU.”

Lissmann, like so many in healthcare, is also having a hard time getting over some of what she’s experienced in the past year.

“The journey is not over,” she said. “I don’t even like to use the word journey; I’d prefer to describe it as a war that we have been fighting. I think of the people who were taken too soon that should still be here, and I hope I can find peace with that one day. For Derek, it’s the sound of beeping. I have different triggers and flashbacks. But when I get that vaccine in someone’s arm, I keep thinking, 'that’s another patient that I will hopefully never see in my ICU,' and that is helping me heal a little bit.”

Lissmann now works part-time in the COVID-19 ICU at Froedtert. She’s also administering vaccines at Milwaukee’s Muslim Community Center, and teaching the next generation of nurses at Marquette University.

Judge Mosley has also been busy. He works virtually as a Milwaukee County Municipal Judge. He’s on billboards and in PSA’s organized by “Mask-Up Milwaukee.” He also still advocates for transplant patients who are going through their own challenges in this pandemic. He received a kidney transplant nearly five years ago.

Judge Mosley is also trying to raise awareness in the African-American community, which is disproportionately affected by coronavirus but getting the vaccine at a much lower rate.

“I have completed both doses of the vaccine, and I had no side effects,” said Judge Mosley. “That’s important for others like me to know.”

With a renewed thankfulness to be alive, Judge Mosely hopes we can all take away something positive from the past year.

“If anything, it showed us that we are more connected than we think,” he said. “Everyone has been affected by this virus in their own way, and everyone has to do their part to help us get through it. We have more in common than what divides us, and our health is the most important out of all of that.”

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