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Army Reserve officer, NJ HS principal dies after bone marrow donation to save stranger

Principal Derrick Nelson of Westfield Public Schools. (Westfield Public Schools/Released)
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A high school principal from New Jersey has paid the ultimate price to save the life of a young stranger from across the Atlantic: his own life.

In Februrary, 44-year-old Derrick Nelson, from Westfield, underwent the procedure where a team of surgeons extracted his bone marrow to send it to a 14-year-old patient, whom he’d never met, in France.

But because Nelson suffered from apnea, a condition that caused his breathing to stop several times when he was asleep, he couldn’t be operated under general anesthesia.

Doctors decided to do a different form of transplant on him: intravenous therapy.

With one IV in each arm, he told the High School newspaper before the surgery that “[the doctors would] take the blood out of one arm, send that blood to the centrifuge where they separate the plasma from the stem cell, then put the blood back in my arm through the other IV.”

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That didn’t stop the good Samaritan.

He said that the discomfort would be for a noble cause, and he’d gladly go through it: “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.”

The surgery didn’t go as planned, however, and Nelson, who was the father of a 6-year-old girl, never got to enjoy his good deed.

“After the procedure he did, he couldn’t speak and was lying in the bed,” his father told NJ Advance Media. “His eyes were open and he realized who we were. But he couldn’t move. He never spoke again.”

Besides his work at the high school, Nelson served as an officer in the Army Reserve for more than 20 years and had recently reenlisted, according to the Associated Press.

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© 2019 New York Daily News

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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