WESTFIELD, N.J. (AP/Meredith) — A New Jersey high school principal has died after slipping into a coma while donating bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy in France.
Family members tell NJ.com that Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson underwent the donation procedure at a hospital in February. They say the 44-year-old couldn't speak or move afterward, and remained in that condition until he died Sunday.
"His final act was one of selflessness," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted Tuesday.
Nelson's mother says her son went into cardiac arrest during the donation process and that doctors haven't explained why.
Friends say Nelson, who had a 6-year-old daughter, didn't know the French teen he was trying to help.
Nelson also served as an officer in the Army Reserve for more than 20 years and had recently re-enlisted. His military service included an assignment in the Middle East.
Devastated by the loss, Nelson's students remembered him as a "good and caring person."
"He was so nice. He always had a huge soft spot for all his students," sophomore Brynne Burke told PIX11 News.
Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle also offered her condolences to Nelson's family, friends and "all who were lucky to have known him."
"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," she wrote in a Facebook post. "He was a man of immense character and kindness, and his legacy will live on in the generations of students whose lives he touched."