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A beloved high school principal is being remembered after giving his life donating bone marrow to a 14-year-old he never knew.

Derrick Nelson, Principal of Westfield High School in Northern New Jersey heroically decided to donate his bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy in France whom he had never met.

Normally the procedure is relatively routine, but Nelson suffered from sleep apnea — a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing stops repeatedly during sleep — and wasn’t able to go under general anesthesia, the more common method used for the procedure.

During a pre-procedure interview with his school newspaper, Nelson explained that he was initially told he couldn’t donate his blood marrow not only because of his sleep condition, but  also because he carried a certain gene.


“I said well I don’t have sickle cell, but I have the sickle cell trait,” Nelson said to the interviewer. “[The doctors] said, ‘Well if you have the trait, you can’t do stem cell.’”

But the doctor’s didn’t close his file when he told them that — instead, they came up with a modified bone marrow retrieval process — using local anesthesia and extracting cells from his bone marrow.

Nelson made it through the procedure okay, but afterwards, it was immediately clear something was wrong.

“He couldn’t speak,” his father, 81-year-old Willie Nelson, said during an interview with NJ Advance Media. “His eyes were open and he realized who [family members] were. But he couldn’t move. He never spoke again.”

After a month-long coma, which his family expected him to come out of, Nelson died on Sunday, according to NJ.com.

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According to his father, they “really don’t know the full story of what happened” to the 20-year member of the Army Reserve.  Nelson is survived by his mother, Juanita, his fiancée, Sheronda, and their 6-year-old daughter.

While what happened to Nelson is troubling, his case is extremely rare. Normally, bone marrow donation procedures are considered very safe.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most serious risk associated with donating bone marrow involves the use and effects of anesthesia during the removal surgery. Furthermore, local anesthesia is considered much safer than general.

In very rare cases, a person under local anesthesia may experience a depressed CNS syndrome, in which the central nervous system slows down too much. This can lead to a decreased rate of breathing and heart rate and result in cardiac arrest if the blood stops pumping to the heart.

Nelson’s tragic death shouldn’t scare you away from donating bone marrow to someone in need. Your body’s a lot more resilient than you might think, and the benefits to donating far out way the risks.

It’s not as difficult as you might think.

Joining a registry takes less than 10 minutes. All you have to do is fill out an online form and take an at-home swab test. If you match up with someone, you will be contacted. If you are asked to make a donation, most of the time it is done via stem cell and not bone marrow — the whole process is pretty similar to donating blood.

Your body will replenish itself.

According to Be the Match, the bone marrow donation organization used by Nelson, your cells will replenish themselves in 4 to 6 weeks after the bone marrow removal. This means that you will be back to normal in about two months with no negative long-term effects.

It won’t cost you anything.

All travel and medical costs involving the bone marrow removal are covered, meaning you won’t have to pay anything out of pocket.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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