- In February Derrick Nelson, a high school principal from New Jersey donated bone marrow to a stranger in France.
- Shortly after the procedure, he went into a coma.
- Nelson died on Sunday. His cause of death is unclear.
- The local community is mourning the man, who some have called “selfless.”
- Nelson was with the school district since 2002, serving as principal since 2017.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
Derrick Nelson was known for his kindness and compassion.
In October, the New Jersey high school principal submitted his information to see if his bone marrow might be a match for someone who was living with a serious illness. As it turns out, he was.
So, in February, Nelson underwent surgery to donate bone marrow to a stranger living in France -a 14-year-old boy, the Washington Post reported.
“If it’s just a little bit of pain for a little bit of time that can give someone years of joy, it’s all worth it,” he told his school’s newspaper of his decision to undergo the procedure.
But things didn’t go as expected. After the February procedure, Nelson, 44, fell into a coma.
“After the procedure he did, he couldn’t speak and was lying in the bed,” his 81-year-old father Willie Nelson told NJ.com. “His eyes were open and he realised who we were. But he couldn’t move. He never spoke again.”
The 44-year-old man’s family expected him to make a full recovery. They stayed with him in the hospital over the last few months, waiting. Nelson died on Sunday. His cause of death is unclear.
According to the National Bone Marrow Program, around 2.4% of donors experience some kind of serious complication because of anesthesia or bone or nerve damage.
“We really don’t know the full story of what happened,” his father said. “We were expecting him to come out of the coma he was in. But he didn’t make it.”
In the February interview with the student newspaper, Nelson cited health concerns that changed the procedural plan at the last minute. Nelson, a military veteran, lived with sleep apnea, a condition in which a person stops breathing intermittently while sleeping.
As a result, the doctors didn’t want to risk putting him under using general anesthesia. Instead, they were planning to use intravenous therapy to gather stem cells.
But during his final physical exam on January 21, doctors found that plan wasn’t viable either. The issue arose when they asked if Nelson had sickle cell anemia. “I said well I don’t have sickle cell, but I have the sickle cell trait,” Nelson told the high school paper. “[The doctors] said, ‘Well if you have the trait, you can’t do stem cell.'”
Ultimately, the doctors used a local anesthetic, which allowed them to monitor his breathing during the operation, per the Washington Post.
Now, the Westfield, New Jersey, community is mourning Nelson. He began working in the district in 2010, becoming the principal of Westfield High School in 2017.
“Dr. Nelson touched us all with his kindness, compassion, integrity and endlessly positive attitude,” said Superintendent Margaret Dolan in a statement to Tap Into Scotch Plains/Fanwood. “We hold him and his family in our hearts as we grieve this loss together.”
In a post on Facebook, the town’s mayor Shelley Brindle called Nelson “a man of immense character and kindness.”
On Facebook, Governor Phil Murphy said Nelson “embodied all that makes New Jersey great. His final act was one of selflessness.”
In addition to his father, Willie, the high school principal his survived by his mother Juanita, fiancee Sheronda Braker, and their 6-year-old daughter Morgan.
“Derrick was a tremendous father to our beloved daughter Morgan and the best companion and life partner I could have ever asked for,” Braker said in a statement to ABC 7. “He loved his family almost beyond belief. He was a man who carried himself with dignity, courage, and compassion. His last kind and generous act on this earth in giving so someone else might live is a true testament to who he was and how he should always be remembered.”
- Read more:
- The record-setting ‘Jeopardy!’ winner says reading children’s books helped him win
- Days after purchasing an $US8 million private island, a man was accused of stealing household goods from Kmart
- Watch a group of surfers rescue a baby great white shark
- A man is riding his bike around the world – and he’s carrying a kitten on his back as he goes
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.