Students and faculty are mourning the death of beloved Westfield High School Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson after he donated bone marrow to a stranger. He was 44.
Reports indicate that Nelson went into a coma at Hackensack University Medical Center in Bergen County after he donated his bone marrow in February. Doctors say that although the procedure of taking someone’s bone marrow for donation is generally 99 percent safe, a small percentage of people go through serious health complications that rarely result in death.
According to the National Marrow Program, patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity, but African-American patients have the lowest chances of finding a matching donor. More African-American registry members are almost always needed.
Nelson’s bone marrow was donated to a 14-year-old boy in France whom Nelson didn’t know.
Serving in the Army Reserve for more than 20 years, Nelson was principal of Westfield High School since 2017. Active in the community, Nelson was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. An online petition has been started to rename Westfield High School after him.
“He lived his life with daily acts of selflessness and kindness, so it’s a tremendous loss and people are reeling from it,” said Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle in one televised interview. “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.”
Nelson leaves behind a wife and a 6-year-old daughter.
Funeral services for Nelson are being held next week. A viewing is being held Monday, April 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St. John Baptist Church (2387 Morse Ave., Scotch Plains, N.J.) On Tuesday, April 16, another viewing will be held at St. John Baptist Church from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. followed by a funeral service from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.