Flags were flown at half-staff Monday in Westfield, N.J., to honor a principal who fell into a month-long coma and died after donating bone marrow to help a boy in France he’d never even met.
The death of 44-year-old Derrick Nelson shocked and saddened the community of Westfield, where Nelson had worked at Westfield High for almost a decade as an assistant principal, and then principal.
“He was a man of immense character and kindness, and his legacy will live on in the generations of students whose lives he touched,” Westfield Mayor Shelly Brindle wrote on her Facebook page, according to the Bridgewater Courier News.
Nelson’s fiancée, Sheronda Braker, with whom he had a daughter, says giving to others was practically a part of Nelson’s DNA.
“He loved his family almost beyond belief. He was a man who carried himself with dignity, courage and compassion,” Braker said in a statement to WABC7 New York. “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. We will always love him.”
“Deaths are almost unheard of,” according to Dr. Muzzafar Qazilbash, professor of stem cell transplantation at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
While all surgeries and general anesthesia carry some risk, Qazilbash told Prevention magazine, “There are a lot of safeguards in place” and that anyone who is not in good physical health is usually not cleared by doctors to donate.
According to reports, Nelson didn’t hesitate to help when he was contacted by the bone marrow donor organization Be the Match in October 2018 and told that he might be a match for a 14-year-old boy in France.
“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 told Westfield High’s school newspaper.
Nelson reportedly lapsed into a coma following the procedure and never regained consciousness. His funeral was held on Tuesday.
There is also a Bridgewater Courier News reports.campaign is calling for Westfield High School to be renamed in Nelson’s honor, the