Fiancee of New Jersey principal who died after bone marrow donation sues hospital

The fiancee of a New Jersey high school principal who died after a bone marrow transplant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hackensack University Medical Center, the Bridgewater Courier News reported.

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Derrick Nelson, 44, the principal at Westfield High School, died April 8 after undergoing surgery to donate bone marrow to a 14-year-old cancer patient in France, according to Nelson had lapsed into a coma a short time after the operation, the Courier News reported.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Union County Superior Court by Sheronda Braker, Nelson's fiancee and the mother of Nelson's 5-year-old daughter, the newspaper reported. The complaint named the hospital, an anesthesiologist and others, reported. The amount of monetary damages has not been specified, the Courier News reported.

Braker spoke Monday at a news conference at the office of attorney David A. Mazie, who is handling the case. Braker was joined at the news conference by Nelson's parents, Willie and Juanita Nelson, reported.

“I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else that decides to undergo a procedure to donate,” Braker said. “This is justice for our daughter who does not have her father. Who cries for her father. As a mother you want to be able to help your child, and that’s something I can’t fix. It’s justice for his parents who lost their only child. Justice for countless families and friends who have lost just a great, great person. And for me, I’ll never be Mrs. Nelson.”

Hackensack Meridian Health officials responded to the lawsuit with a statement, expressing sympathy to Nelson's loved ones.

"We were saddened by the tragic death of Dr. Derrick Nelson and have shared our deepest sympathies with his family, his students, the community, his friends and colleagues he touched. He leaves a remarkable legacy as an educator and veteran," hospital officials said in the statement. "We are unable to say more at this time due to the litigation process; however, we have been in communication with the family through their legal representation. It is important to note that the safety of our patients remains our primary focus and we have one of the largest and most experienced transplantation teams in the country."

Derrick Nelson served 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. In May, the city of Westfield named him the honorary grand marshal of its Memorial Day parade, WCBS reported. He was to marry Braker on June 28, the Courier News reported.

“Nothing will ever bring him back, but we want to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else,” Braker said at the news conference.

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