A high school principal in New Jersey died this week, shortly after donating bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy he never met.
Forty-four-year-old Derrick Nelson, the principal of Westfield High School, died Sunday after being in a weeks-long coma following a procedure to extract his bone marrow for donation, NJ.com reported Tuesday.
Nelson’s donation procedure took place in February at a Bergen County, N.J., hospital, but he slipped into a coma shortly thereafter.
“After the procedure he did, he couldn’t speak and was lying in the bed,” his father told the local news outlet. “His eyes were open and he realized who we were. But he couldn’t move. He never spoke again.”
“We really don’t know the full story of what happened,” he added. “We were expecting him to come out of the coma he was in. But he didn’t make it.”
Nelson told the Westfield High School student newspaper previously that he wanted to help the 14-year-old from France because he was identified as a donor match.
“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.
The bone marrow was to be extracted in order to provide stem cells to help the sick teen. The teen’s condition was not disclosed.
Nelson died Sunday surrounded by his family in his hospital room, according to the local news outlet.
His death prompted a wave of condolences and support for his family.
“Dr. Nelson touched us all with his kindness, compassion, integrity, and endlessly positive attitude,” Westfield School District Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said in a letter to parents on Monday, according to NJ.com.
“He was the type of guy to take the shirt off his back and give it to you,” his father said. “He was very good at everything he did. He gave 100 percent of his life to education.”
An online petition to rename the high school after Nelson was circulating this week and had gained thousands of signatures as of Wednesday.