Former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo is mourning the death of the 8-year-old African boy that he flew to the United States earlier this month for surgery to remove a tumor.
The child, Matadi Sela Petit of Kinshasa, Congo, died after suffering a “rare and unpredictable genetic reaction to anesthesia,” the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation announced on Instagram early Saturday, according to The Hill.
Matadi was born with a cleft lip and a facial tumor that grew as he got older, according to the foundation.
“Despite the diligent efforts of his medical caregivers, Matadi did not recover and he passed away last night,” the foundation said.
Mutombo captured headlines earlier this month after footage emerged of him meeting with the young boy at the Los Angeles International Airport.
He told TMZ at the time that he met Matadi earlier this year at a hospital he built in Congo.
Mutombo is said to have paid for Matadi’s flight from Africa and surgery at the Osborne Head & Neck Institute. After the operation, Matadi was supposed to return to Congo where Mutombo was hopeful he would be able to return to his schooling and live a more normal life, according to The Hill.
Mutombo issued an Instagram post sharing the sad news with his followers.
“The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation is sad to share the news of the passing of Matadi Sela Petit. Matadi was an 8 year old little boy with a vibrant and appealing personality. He was born … with a cleft lip and a facial tumor that enlarged as he grew,” the post reads. “Matadi was sponsored by the DMF and several partners to receive surgical treatment for his tumor by Dr. Ryan Osborne, founder and Director of Head and Neck Surgery at the Osborne Head and Neck Institute in Los Angeles, CA. Matadi and his father were welcomed with open arms by Dr. Osborne, his team and the Cedars Sinai Hospital family as well as the Ronald McDonald House where he won everyone’s heart with his open and friendly attitude. During the delicate surgery, Matadi suffered a rare and unpredictable genetic reaction to anesthesia. Despite the diligent efforts of his medical caregivers, Matadi did not recover and he passed away last night.”
“We are devastated by the loss of Matadi and our heart goes out to his father, his mother and the rest of his family, and all his old and new friends. We are comforted by the knowledge that a whole “village” adopted Matadi and joined forces to offer him treatment that was not available in the DRC and which would have given him the opportunity to have a new and different life,” the Instagram post continues. “We thank Dr. Ryan Osborne and his team, the Cedars-Sinai Hospital medical team, the Ronald McDonald House, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, the American Embassy in Kinshasa and all those who in large and small ways embraced Matadi and his family. He was a pioneer, and his memory will inspire us to continue to develop efforts and partnerships to improve the lives of the children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”