New Jersey Principal Dies After Donating Bone Marrow To Sick Teenager In France

Family, friends, students and parents are mourning the death of the educational leader, including local government officials.

Photo Credit: Screenshot/Pix 11 News

| April 12 2019,

9:47 pm

A New Jersey principal died on Sunday after donating bone marrow to a sick teenager in France.

NJ.com reports Derrick Nelson went in to Hackensack University Hospital for surgery in February to donate his bone marrow to a sick 14-year-old boy in France. However, the 44-year-old never recovered from the procedure. 

"He couldn’t speak and was lying in the bed,” said the high school principal's father, Willie Nelson. “His eyes were open and he realized who we were. But he couldn’t move. He never spoke again.”

Nelson, who was engaged and father to a 6-year-old daughter, suffered from cardiac arrest during surgery and fell into a coma on Wednesday prior to his death.

Juanita, Nelson's mother, told reporters that it is uncertain what caused his death at this time. She says doctors have not offered reasons why his body had such a negative response to the procedure.

Willie echoed the sentiments, adding, “We really don’t know the full story of what happened. We were expecting him to come out of the coma he was in. But he didn’t make it.”

The donor's bone marrow was rushed to the teenager following the procedure. It generally takes several weeks for recovery to determine if the donation was successful. Nelson reportedly signed up for the great gesture via the bone marrow site, Be the Match.

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The site warns that risks are possible during surgery, but cites that very few are fatal.

“A small percentage (2.4%) of donors experience a serious complication due to anesthesia or damage to bone, nerve or muscle in their hip region,” it reads. “Serious side effects of anesthesia are rare.”

The military veteran passed away on Sunday. CBS news reports he served 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and recently re-enlisted.

Nelson began his educational career as a teacher in 2002 in the Plainfield School District. Prior taking the lead authoritative role as Principal of Westfield High School in 2017, he acted as vice principal of Westfield Junior High School (or Roosevelt Intermediate School) beginning in 2010. 

Family, friends, students and parents are mourning the death of the educational leader, including local government officials.

Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle told CBS News, "He lived his life with daily acts of selflessness and kindness, so it's a tremendous loss and people are reeling from it."

"And my own kids will tell you about his humor in the hallways. He had this great sense of incredible, or incredible respect from the students," she continued. "He was so beloved by so many."

"He just lived a life of service above self and I think there is a lesson that we're all going to take away from his untimely passing that hopefully we can apply to our own lives."

On Wednesday, a vigil was held by the community at Westfield High School to celebrate his life and influence.

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