Fiancée sues over death of beloved NJ principal who donated bone marrow

ROSELAND, N.J.  — The fiancée of a New Jersey high school principal who died after donating bone marrow to a student in France sue the hospital on Monday.

Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson went into a coma after he donated bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy.

Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson died in April, several weeks after lapsing into a coma during the procedure at Hackensack University Medical Center, which Sheronda Braker named in her suit.

Nelson, who was 44 and had a 6-year-old daughter, didn’t know the French teen. They were connected through Be the Match, a worldwide bone marrow registry network.

Nelson also served as an officer in the Army Reserve for more than 20 years and had recently re-enlisted.

A message seeking comment was left with a hospital spokeswoman Monday.

Before the procedure in February, Nelson told the school’s newspaper that he had several health issues that complicated his planned donation. His sleep apnea prevented doctors from using general anesthesia, and they instead were to harvest stem cells intravenously.

However, at his final physical exam on Jan. 21, Nelson was asked if he had sickle cell anemia, a blood disorder. “I said well I don’t have sickle cell, but I have the sickle cell trait,” Nelson told the newspaper. He said the doctors told him that meant they couldn’t harvest the stem cells.

They ultimately decided to do the bone marrow surgery under a local anesthetic, he said.

Bone marrow donation is considered a low risk procedure. About 2.4% of donors experience a serious complication due to anesthesia or damage to bone, nerve, or muscle in their hip region, according to the National Marrow Donor Program’s website.

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