Derrick Nelson fell into a coma in February after a procedure to donate bone marrow to a sick teenager in France.
Derrick Nelson fell into a coma in February after a procedure to donate bone marrow to a sick teenager in France.

Teacher’s heroic act ends in tragedy

A selfless principal died trying to help save the life of a 14-year-old boy he never met, his family said on Tuesday.

Derrick Nelson, 44, of New Jersey fell into a coma in February after a procedure to donate bone marrow to a sick teenager in France, the New York Post reported.

"After the procedure he did, he couldn't speak and was lying in the bed," his father, 81-year-old Willie Nelson told the NJ Advance Media Tuesday. "His eyes were open and he realised who we were. But he couldn't move. He never spoke again."

 

Derrick Nelson died after a procedure to donate bone marrow to a sick teenager he had never met.
Derrick Nelson died after a procedure to donate bone marrow to a sick teenager he had never met.

The family of the 20-year officer with the US Army Reserve, including his parents, fiancee and the couple's six-year-old daughter, kept a vigil for him in his room at New Jersey's University Hospital until his death on Sunday.

"We really don't know the full story of what happened," his father Willie said. "We were expecting him to come out of the coma he was in. But he didn't make it."

Because Derrick suffered from apnoea, doctors were concerned about using anaesthesia for the procedure.

They ultimately decided to use a local anaesthetic, Willie said in an interview with the high school newspaper, Hi's Eye, prior to the procedure.

"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," he said at the time.

 

The 44-year-old was a principal at Westfield High School in New Jersey.
The 44-year-old was a principal at Westfield High School in New Jersey.

On Monday, school officials from Westfield High School where he was principle and mayor Shelley Brindle paid tribute to Nelson.

"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," Brindle said on Facebook.

"He was a man of immense character and kindness, and his legacy will live on in the generations of students whose lives he touched."

Nelson's family said he had recently re-enlisted in the Army. His previous military service included assignments in the Middle East.

His funeral will be held later this week.

 

This story originally appeared on the New York Post and has been reproduced with permission.