A ‘Selfless’ High School Principal Donated Bone Marrow to a Stranger before He Fell into a Coma and Died


Abbie Nelson, Staff Writer

    Derrick Nelson, a New Jersey Principal decided he was going to undergo surgery to donate bone marrow to a 14 year-old boy in France. He told a student journalist in Westfield,N.J., “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.”

    In October, an organization that connects people suffering from life-threatening diseases with potential bone marrow donors contacted the principal after he showed up as a potential match for the French patient. When testing confirmed he was match, the 44-year-old educator readily agreed to donate his stem cells in hopes that it would save the life of a stranger.

    Tragically it was last thing he would ever do. On April 8 2019, school officials announced that Nelson, who had been on medical leave since the February procedure, had died over the weekend.

    His family members told reporters at NJ.com that he had lapsed into a coma after the surgery and never recovered.”After the procedure he did, he couldn’t speak and was lying in the bed,” his father, Willie Nelson, 81, told the site. “His eyes were open and he realized who we were. But he couldn’t move. He never spoke again.”

    The exact cause of Nelson’s death is still not known his father said “We really don’t know what happened.We were expecting him to come out of the coma. But he never did.”

    In his February interview with the student journalist, he referenced to multiple health issues that could complicate his plan to donate stem cells to the teenager more complicated. So doctors came up with a plan which involved putting him under a local anesthetic that would allow them to monitor his breathing while they extracted his bone marrow.

    So, could you donate to a total stranger? Thunder Ridge Freshman Brynlie Shears said “ No definitely, not.” Most of us probably feel that way but wouldn’t be amazing if we could all be that selfless.

    In Westfield, his suburban community located less than 30 miles from Manhattan, the beloved principal’s untimely death inspired an outpouring of tributes this week from students, community members and state leaders. “His final act was one of selflessness,” wrote Gov. Phil Murphy, who said that Nelson had “embodied all that makes New Jersey great.”


Photo Credit: MyCentralJersey.com