Dikembe Mutombo is stepping up in a big way for a little boy from the Congo.
The former NBA player, through his foundation, flew 8-year-old Matadi to the United States so doctors could remove a tumor that covers the left side of his face.
Surgeons from the Osborne Head and Neck Foundation in Los Angeles will perform the surgery free of charge. Mutombo said he met Matadi in September of this year when he was in his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire.
“I was touched with what he was going through as a young boy, who’s 8 years old not going to school,” Mutumbo told TMZ. “Where he’s been pushed away by society. His mom has to keep him in the bedroom every day, ’cause people are talking bad about him.”
And the surgery isn’t just cosmetic. Doctors say it’s a medical necessity in order for him to stay alive. Matadi has already received cleft lip repair surgery at a hospital Mutombo built in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, but there wasn’t a doctor there who could perform the tumor removal.
“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,” said the Head and Neck Foundation’s Dave Dell.
After the surgery, Matadi will recover at the Ronald McDonald House at no charge Mutombo said it’s first about saving the child’s life and then improving it. And he wants to do the same for others in the DRC.
“Very difficult as a father to see a child who is 8 years old who is born like all of us but has not gotten opportunities,” Mutombo explained. “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.”
You can see a video of Mutombo meeting Matadi at the airport below.