A petition to rename a New Jersey high school in honor of its late principal, Derrick Nelson, has received thousands of signatures online.

Nelson, 44, died following a procedure to extract his bone marrow in February. It was sent to a 14-year-old patient that he had never met in France.

Because Nelson — who was principal at Westfield High School — suffered from sleep apnea, which causes a person to stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, doctors said general anesthesia was too dangerous.

Instead, doctors administered a local anesthetic so they could keep a watch on his breathing. Even that didn’t work.

“After the procedure he did, he couldn’t speak and was lying in the bed,” his 81-year-old father Willie Nelson told NJ Advance Media. “His eyes were open and he realized who we were. But he couldn’t move. He never spoke again.”

He had been in a coma since the surgery and died on Sunday.

The principal had been interviewed by the high school’s newspaper prior to the donation. He told them before the surgery, “If it’s just a little bit of pain for a little bit of time that can give someone years of joy, it’s all worth it.”

Nelson had a 6-year-old daughter and had served as an officer in the Army Reserve for more than 20 years.

More than 10,000 people have signed the change.org petition by Wednesday afternoon after it was posted Tuesday.


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