NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey school principal’s death – after he reportedly gave a bone marrow donation – is now raising questions about the risks to donors.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports that the complications tied to bone marrow donation are actually very rare.

The circumstances surrounding Dr. Derrick Nelson’s death are not completely known. Details as to what actually happened to Principal Nelson or what the cause of death may have been have not been released.

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A friend told CBS2’s meg Baker that Nelson suffered complications after donating bone marrow to a 14-year-old boy in France and was in a coma for weeks before his passing.

Serious complications from bone marrow donation are exceedingly rare. According to the National Marrow Donor Program, serious complications occur in less than three percent of donations.

(Credit: CBS2)

There are occasionally some effects donors can experience after giving bone marrow; most are not life-threatening.

Those include problems with anesthesia as well as bone, nerve, and muscle damage from the marrow extraction.

The most likely cause of a problem or reaction is due to the anesthesia.

Gomez added that if Principal Nelson had a marrow donation-related complication, he may also have had an undetected heart disease issue that was triggered by the donation procedure.

“The important thing is that complications from marrow donation are very rare… fatal complications are almost unheard of and donation can save lives,” Gomez said.

  1. As the father of a leukemia patient whose life was saved by a peripherally donated stem cell donation, this is very sad. As an anesthesiologist, I can entertain some scenarios in this very unusual catastrophic situation. Recipients are grateful beyond belief to their donors, and we have become family friends. Most stem cell donations do not need to involve removal of bone marrow, and are easy. My son did it for a recipient. Be the Match is a fantastic organization, instrumental in saving many lives, and basically facilitates matching and testing at medical facilities. Mr Nelson went beyond the call of duty. Whether his tragic demise was related to specifics of bone marrow donation, or to other issues with sedation, drug reactions, or his medical condition, we don’t know. His family deserves eternal love and respect for his willingness to step up, and support for their untimely loss.

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