Derrick Nelson, who served his community as the principal of Westfield High School in New Jersey, didn’t hesitate to offer his bone marrow in order to save the life of a 14-year old teenager living in France who was a stranger to him.
The 44-year-old man never realized that the sacrifice he was making would involve his own life.
His father reports that following the procedure to harvest Derrick’s life-saving marrow, he was lying in his hospital bed but was unable to speak.
81-year-old Willie Nelson says his son recognized him, but couldn’t move a muscle nor could he talk to his father.
Family members, including both his parents, his fiancée, and their 6-year old daughter, never left Derrick’s bedside at University Hospital, keeping a hopeful vigil that he would recover.
But the former US Army Reserve officer, who recently re-enlisted and whose service included stints in the Middle East, unexpectedly passed away on Sunday.
His father says the family doesn’t know the full extent of what went wrong.
Everyone was expecting Derrick to awaken from his coma and fully recover, although that never happened.
One complication could have been that he suffered from apnea.
Doctors decided to use a local anesthetic rather than general anesthesia for the bone marrow procedure, as the 44-year old principal told his school’s newspaper, the Hi’s Eye, prior to undergoing the procedure.
Derrick was a selfless man who said he believed it was worth experiencing just some minor pain and inconvenience in order to give the teenager in France a chance at a lifetime filled with joyful moments
Both school officials and Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle commented following Derrick Nelson’s death that his passing was a loss for the entire community and that he was a local hero, calling him a man known for his kindness as well as his good character.
Family and friends will gather later this week for his funeral service in Scotch Plains at St. John’s Baptist Church.
Rest in peace, Derrick Nelson.
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