The story of a Congolese boy who came to America for life-saving surgery took a tragic turn when news emerged Saturday about his medical procedure, CNN reports. Matadi Sela Petit, 8, had a life-threatening facial tumor that inspired former NBA player Dikembe Mutombo to take him from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Los Angeles on Dec. 12. Mutombo, who met Matadi a few months ago, told TMZ the boy was shunned by his society and had to stay home "because people are talking bad about him." So the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation and its partners funded Matadi's trip to America to have the large tumor removed from the left side of his face.
But surgeons at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA ran into trouble last Sunday, per TMZ. Seems Matadi suffered cardiac arrest during the procedure and was moved to intensive care, where he was in stable condition and moving his hands and feet. Then came Mutombo's sad Instagram post on Saturday: "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." Matadi had a "vibrant and appealing personality" and "won everyone's heart with his open and friendly attitude," writes Mutombo. "He was a pioneer, and his memory will inspire us ... to improve the lives of the children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo." (A musician played guitar during his brain surgery.)