A high school principal passed away after donating bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy he’d never met.
When Derrick Nelson heard about a French teen who needed a bone marrow transplant, he decided to help right away. Be the Match, a donor organization, contacted him saying he might be a good match for the sick boy.
Westfield High’s student newspaper, Hi’s Eye, reported that Be the Match found Nelson due to a blood donation he had made more than 20 years ago. The principal said he wanted to help the boy he’d never met.
But during the process, he ran into numerous problems. The Army veteran had developed sleep apnea which prevented doctors from putting him under general anesthetic.
Physicians then planned to intravenously harvest stem cells but when they found out that Nelson carried the trait for sickle cell anemia, they nixed the process.
Doctors decided to extract the bone marrow while Nelson was under a local anesthetic.
“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,” Nelson expressed.
But it would be one of the last statements he ever said. The principal entered a coma after the procedure and never recovered.
After one month in a coma, he passed away on April 7.
Bone marrow donation are usually successful without any problems. Only 2.4 percent of donors experience complications and those rarely include death.
Westfield School District Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said in a letter: “We hold him and his family in our hearts as we grieve this loss together, and I know you join me in granting his family the privacy they have requested.”
Gov. Phil Murphy said: “His final act was one of selflessness.”
“This is a tremendous loss for our community, and I know that our children, and we as parents, will struggle with coming to terms with this over the coming days and weeks. He was a man of immense character and kindness, and his legacy will live on in the generations of students whose lives he touched,” mayor Shelley Brindle wrote.
Nelson’s fiancé, Sheronda Braker, said he was “a tremendous father to our beloved daughter Morgan and the best companion and life partner I could have ever asked for. 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.”
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