School principal who donated his bone marrow to save 14-year-old boy's life dies following complications during surgery
A high school principal who tried to save the life of a 14-year-old boy by donating his bone marrow has died in hospital due to complications arising from the procedure.
According to officials at Westfield High School, New Jersey, Principal Derrick Nelson died unexpectedly Sunday night after suffering complications from his bone marrow donation, CNN reports.
In February, Nelson had decided to donate his bone marrow to a child in France after being contacted by Be the Match — a national bone marrow donor program — who told him his blood might be a match for the embattled patient. "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 the school newspaper at the time.
Sheronda Braker, Nelson's fiancee, told CNN he "was a tremendous father to our beloved daughter Morgan and the best companion and life partner I could have ever asked for."
"He loved his family almost beyond belief. He was a man who carried himself with dignity, courage, and compassion," she continued. "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."
Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan wrote a letter to parents, saying, "Dr. Nelson touched us all with his kindness, compassion, integrity, and endlessly positive attitude. 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."
According to Dolan, the 44-year-old had served in the US Army Reserve for over 20 years before he joined Westfield Public Schools in 2010 as the assistant principal of Roosevelt Intermediate School. Nelson then went on to become the assistant principal and principal of Westfield High, which has a strength of over 1,800 pupils.
Nelson was regarded as a committed educator and a role model with a strong moral compass, friends told CNN. Atlanta-based musician Wayne Clemmons, his friend, told the outlet he came to know of Nelson's death only from a mutual friend.
"Derrick was my brother's college roommate and fraternity brother, and that's how I met him back in 1995," he said. "I had not been in contact with him recently. That's why it was such a shock. I didn't know he was donating or had the complications before he passed."
Speaking to CNN affiliate WABC, Jackson O'Brien, senior class president at Westfield High, said, "He always tried to inspire students in the classroom and outside to be good people. And I think he served as a great role model."
The news had "devastated" the family of Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle, who extended her condolences on Facebook.
"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," she said. "He was a man of immense character and kindness, and his legacy will live on in the generations of students whose lives he touched."