New Jersey Principal Dies After Donating Bone Marrow To 14-Year-Old Stranger

New Jersey Principal Dies After Donating Bone Marrow To 14-Year-Old Stranger

Derrick Nelson fell into a coma and never recovered from the surgery.

Published April 10, 2019

A community in New Jersey is mourning the loss of a high school principal who died after donating bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy in France.

According to, Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson fell into a coma in February after the donation procedure at a hospital, reported CBS News.

As a result of the coma, the 44-year-old couldn't speak or move until he passed away on Sunday.

While bone marrow donation is considered to be generally very safe, the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) says a very small percentage of donors — about 2.4% — experience serious complications due to anesthesia or damage to bone, nerve, or muscle in their hip region.

Since 2017, Nelson served as principal of Westfield High, where he previously acted as the vice principal since 2010.

Nelson, who also served in the Army Reserve for over 20 years, was described as a man with great character.

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

School Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said Nelson was "a gift to Westfield High School."

"He had a strong moral compass, perhaps strongest moral compass I have ever experienced," Dolan told CBS.

Nelson is survived by his parents, fiance and 6-year-old daughter. The school will have counselors on hand this week to speak with students and parents about how to deal with death. His family says he did not know the boy who received his bone marrow. Nelson participated in a program that matches donors to people in need of transplants. 

Written by BET Staff

(Photo: CBS News)


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