8-year-old Matadi Sela Petit finally got his lucky break. He was being flown to the US to have surgery on an enormous facial tumor that no one in his native Democratic Republic of Congo could treat.
The trip was sponsored by former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo’s foundation, which delivers health care to needy Congolese people. Mutombo had met Matadi and his family when the child was treated for a cleft palate years earlier at the hospital the foundation built in the country.
Matadi arrived in Los Angeles on December 12th with his father to be treated by Dr. Ryan Osborne, founder and director of the Osborne Head and Neck Institute, and his team at Cedars Sinai Hospital. The Ronald McDonald House put up Matadi and his father in the days prior to the surgery.
Mutombo told TMZ that the boy had been shunned by his village and classmates and needed to be pulled out of school and kept hidden in his home, and he felt compelled to help.
The night before the surgery, he asked for well-wishes for the day ahead:
“Please keep little Matadi in your thoughts and prayers. He will undergo surgery on Sunday and we are hopeful for his full and complete recovery so that he can return home to his family. We are also praying for the surgical team at Osborne Head and Neck Institute as they prepare for Matadi’s surgery.”
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. Despite having some of the finest doctors in the world on his side, little Matadi did not survive his surgery due to a rare and unpredictable reaction to anesthesia.
Mutombo shared the sad news on December 23rd:
“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.”
The boy went into cardiac arrest towards the end of his 6-hour surgery. The doctors performed CPR but eventually had to summon an ambulance to transfer him to the intensive care unit in a nearby building.
At first, it was reported that he was in stable condition and able to move his hands and feet, but we later learned that he never recovered.
“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,” said Mutombo.
Mutombo shared not only his condolences but his gratitude to all of the people who helped with the effort.
“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.”
And while the surgery was unsuccessful, he said that Matadi would live on in spirit.
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.”
Mutombo was born in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa and created his foundation in 1997 in order to “improve the health, education, and quality of life of life for the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
In January, Mutombo will receive the 2019 Yolanda Denise King Higher Ground Award during The Martin Luther King Center’s annual gala. It is “given to individuals and progressive organizations in recognition of outstanding efforts toward building the beloved community.”
We think he deserves that and so much more for his humanitarian efforts.
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