A Congolese boy who was flown all the way from his hometown to the United States to remove a large tumour on his face has passed away, said former NBA star, Dikembe Mutombo, whose foundation sponsored the child’s trip.
The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation said in a statement on Instagram on Saturday that the 8-year-old boy, Matadi Sela Petit, died after suffering a rare genetic reaction to anaesthesia during the surgery on December 16.
“Despite the diligent efforts of his medical caregivers, Matadi did not recover and he passed away last night,” the statement said.
Mutombo, on December 12, welcomed the child who had a tumour growing on the left side of his face, at the Los Angeles International Airport, hoping to change his life after sponsoring his trip and surgery.
The basketball star said he met Matadi earlier this year at a hospital he built in Congo – the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital.
“I was touched by what he’s going through as a young boy who’s 8 years old. Not going to school. The way he’s been pushed away by the society,” Mutombo said.
“His mom has to keep him in the bedroom every day because people are talking bad about him,” the 52-
The NBA Hall of Famer paid for the boy’s flight from Congo and made arrangements for doctors at the Osborne Head and Neck Institute to operate on Matadi for free.
“He is suffering from a life-threatening illness and we are here to help this little boy and Mr Mutombo’s foundation save this little boy’s life,” Dave Dell who works with the basketball star’s foundation then said.
“Right now, we want to improve the living condition of the people in Congo where the mortality rate is 45 for men and 47 for women,” Mutombo added.
Matadi was to live with his father at the Ronald Mcdonald House free of charge during his recovery. He would later return to Congo where Mutombo was optimistic that he will be able to live a more normal life and go back to school. But this has ended in tragedy.
Mutombo is a Congolese American retired professional basketball player who played 18 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
He played in the NBA from 1991 until 2009, recording 11,729 points, 12,359 rebounds, and 3,289 blocks during 18 seasons spent mostly with Denver, Atlanta and Houston.
The NBA star has since become noted for his contribution towards humanitarianism and was recently given the Sager Strong Award for the humanitarian work he has done in his native Democratic Republic of Congo.
Aside from building the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, named after his mother, Mutombo has provided free breast and cervical cancer screenings for women.
He has also played instrumental roles in the fight against polio
in the Democratic Republic of Congo by leading vaccination efforts and treatments.
His team of doctors further provide knee replacement and cataract surgery.