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June 22nd, 2010
12:30 PM ET

Did compassion kill Manute Bol?

By Jennifer Bixler
CNN Medical Executive Producer

The past few weeks  have been a blur of hospitals and doctors for Mathiang Bol. His cousin basketball great Manute Bol died Saturday at the University of Virginia Medical Center at age 47.  Between making funeral arrangements, helping his Sudanese family understand the American health system and dealing with his own grief,  Mathiang, also known by his English name, George, has been going non-stop. "I was with him when he died," Bol told CNN as he drove family members to the airport Monday in Virginia. "They put him on a respirator on Friday. He passed on Saturday morning," says Bol.

George Bol says doctors told the family that a "broad range of complications" led to his cousin's death.  He had liver and kidney damage.  He also had a bad reaction to medicine and developed a rare skin disease, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which causes skin and mucous membranes to become inflamed and blister.

In their grief, some people close to Bol wonder if he put his commitment to the people of his home country of Sudan above his own health.

"I think if he had not gone to Sudan, he would be alive today," says Tom Prichard, a friend of Bol and executive director of Sudan Sunrise, a group Bol worked with to help rebuild Southern Sudan.  "Back in the fall, I helped arrange for Manute to go to the doctor. He was having kidney problems.  He shouldn't have traveled until it cleared up."

But he did.  In November, he traveled to Sudan to work on the school he was building and lend support during the Sudanese presidential and parliamentary elections.  Prichard says Bol left behind a bag that contained his medicine.  It took weeks to get the medicine to Bol in Southern Sudan.  Complicating things, Bol then decided to extend his time in Sudan.  "I am going to stay because people need me," Prichard remembers Bol telling him.  The pain got worse.  Prichard says supporters arranged for a private plane with a nurse to bring Bol out of Sudan, but he refused.  Eventually, the pain became so bad, Bol went to Nairobi, Kenya, for treatment.  He had gallstones and internal bleeding.  It's there, according to Prichard, that Bol was given medicine that caused Bol's lips to swell, one of the classic symptoms of Stevens-Johnson.

In May, Bol flew back to the United States, where he was admitted to Reston Medical Center in Virginia.  A few days later, he was transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center.  Doctors tried to save his life, but there was nothing they could do.

"He is beloved in Sudan and will be missed," says Prichard.  A memorial is planned for Saturday in Washington.  Afterwards, his body will be flown to Sudan for burial.  Bol leaves behind eight children ranging in age from 22 years to 3 months.

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soundoff (116 Responses)
  1. Wilfredo Hernandez

    This world has lost an extrordinary man this past weekend. Mr. Bol was an examplary citizen of sudan who wanted nothing less but to better the lives of others in his homeland even if it was at the expense of his own. I met Mr. Bol back in 2004 when he visited Nichols college and came away with a feeling that this man was one of kind in his generosity and humanitarian acts. My best wishes go to his family in this painful moment, his life acts will always be remembered by the people who's lives he came across from his basketball days to the last day of his life. He was a great man and will always be remembered as such.

    June 22, 2010 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Hopeful

    He did a lot of great work, hopefully will be carried on in his absence.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Joe201

    Greater love hath no man than this – that a man lay down his life – for his friends (and family, and strangers). The world was a better place because of you, Manute!!!

    June 22, 2010 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Luther

    A shining example of a human being. People always made joke about this man but he is more of a man than many who make jokes. Would you die in service of your people? Manute Bol did

    June 22, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. lacrosseson

    He was too selfless.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Thomas

    RIP Mr. Bol. You will be missed.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. John R.

    "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 If this story is true, it is a beautiful reminder of the compassion that can still be seen in today's world.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JCSoCal

    Manute was always a class act in life and in sports. The world is a lesser place without him.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Craig

    He was the MAN! He will be missed even by those who might not have known him or knew of him.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Greg

    The article leaves us wondering what it was that caused the wide range of complications, renal and live disease. Did he contract a disease? Did he inherit kidney and liver diseases? Very vague article.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Patrick M

    Time for a break big man. You've more than earned it. God Bless him and his family and friends.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Bubba

    Well, he was always just above our heads, but now he's gone out of sight. That was one big man.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ray S.

    "You're a better man than I, Manute Bol." I am deeply saddened.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Edward Olanrewaju

    What a man! May your soul rest in peace Manute. Only a handful of people can do what you did. Gave your life in service of others. And Mr. John, you are correct " Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay his life for other" A great scriptural quaote that exemplify his life. The world just lost a great man. We will miss you.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Electric

    May God rest his soul. What a kind, generous, selfless man Manute Bol was. It was so wonderful seeing him give back to his country of birth, as there was and is significant need there. It's a shame that this article hasn't received as many comments as more controversial topics like mud-slinging politics and entertainment. I hope Manute Bol's legacy won't disappear in the myriad of news that only inspires to titillate or incite furor. Everyone could learn something about humanitarianism and philanthropy from Mr. Bol.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. mary

    You can help make Manute's dream of 41 schools in sudan come true by supporting sudan sunrise (www.sudansunrise.org)

    June 22, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Baber

    Why is it only the good die young? Why can't corrupt and dirty law enforcement or government officials die at the age 47?? That would be much better!

    June 22, 2010 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sam - ATL

    The impact he made on those he helped will continue to live on. All the spoiled professional athletes can learn a lot from this man.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Teresa Andrews

    Reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. She, too, traveled extensively for humanitarian efforts (UNICEF) while she was seriously ill.
    She felt she had to do all she could in the time she had left.
    Clearly, she & Mr. Bol were siblings of the heart.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Annie

    May any who come across the story of this extraordinary man come away with the understanding that this life doesn't have to be about attaining all that we can for ourselves, but being able to share with everyone.

    My truly heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and all those lives he touched. Thank you, Mr. Bol, for being a shining example to us all. Rest in peace.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. sRw

    Mr. Bol was a giant in so many ways. We can all learn from him.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Reginald Laurent

    A tear rolled down my face when I first found out. Any newcomers to the NBA should be required to take a course in humanity. What a stellar and selfless person Manute was. They may have to raise the height of Heaven's gate to accomodate this guy's heart. God just called on one heck of an Angel. Rest in eternal peace Big Guy.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. CC

    What a great humanitarian. Inspirational!

    June 22, 2010 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. cg

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story.
    I didn't know anything at all about this man. Just reading this story and the blogs tells alot. May he RIP. God Bless His Soul.

    June 22, 2010 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. V Mathews

    Manute will be missed. He was a good classmate, friend and humanitarian. He served his people well. May he rest in Gods hands.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Syphon Filter

    Rest in peace, big man. You were a gentleman and a kind human being who cared about those less fortunate. Enjoy your new Basketball Court up in Heaven, and the Heaven Dream Team consisting of Moses, Abraham, Peter, Paul Matthew and Coach Jesus Christ.............R.I.P.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Minister Tonja

    Mr. Bol has shown us all what real love and commitment is all about. He stayed true to what he believed in, no matter the consequences. The world has lost a true hero in Manute Bol. I pray more will learn from him and try to be like him and not the thuggish, angry behavior we have seen here in America.
    You will be missed Mr. Bol!

    June 22, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Lynn

    What a remarkable man and what a great loss to the people of Sudan and to the world. Blessed are those who work for the greater good of all people. God speed Mr. Bol.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Jessica

    He was a very compassionate, giving man. But in the end he was just a very stupid, possibly stubborn man...maybe even arrogant.

    A shining example of a human being would have been someone who stopped and took care of his health, to ensure he'd be around for many more years to contribute to his family, friends and native sudan.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Tiffany

    This is really what the purpose of each of our lives should be – to make a difference in the world. Because he did, Mr. Bol will long be remembered in his homeland. A true example of what a human being should be! May you rest in perpetual peace.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Mike Heneghan

    My condolences to all of Manute's family and friends. I'm sure you are proud of him, and rightfully so. He took the gifts he had been given and used them to make the world a better place and to help relieve the suffering of millions.

    I can't help but contrast him to the likes of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, two huge stars who have dedicated much of their time, gifts and resources to partying and ridiculous gambling sprees in Vegas, racking up literally millions in losses in such a worthless pursuit.

    if Jordan were to lend his name and some time to the Sudanese cause, it would have an immeasurable impact. If only . . .

    RIP Manute. You have done well.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jenni

    Rest in peace, Manute. I'm so glad than none of the usual mean-spirited CNN bloggers have posted to this article. What an amazing man. However, one should not ignore ones own health - Manute could have carried his work on for years if he had tended to himself as well.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. jim

    Very sad. Bol was a extraordinary man. The world's lost a valued citizen. RIP friend.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Helene

    He's the perfect example of what a true compassionate human being should be. May he always rest in peace and may his children and his family always find comfort in all the good he did for his people. Rest in Peace Manute Bol. You were one of a kind, one in a lifetime.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Dick

    Thank you, Mr Bol, for being the type of caring, giving person that this world needs more of. I regret that it took your death for most of us to realize what a great man you were. You will be missed. R.I.P.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Tom Prichard

    Jennifer Bixler got right to the point of what was Manute's undoing. He felt that coming home from Sudan to get medical care would let down his beloved Sudan when he was needed most, the April elections. Last week from his hospital bed, he was already talking about when he would go back to help with the January referendum. It's going to take a lot of people to fill Manute's shoes, but perhaps his bold example will inspire many to join in his work in helping Sudan get through the January peacefully, and build 41 schools for Sudanese of whatever tribe, religion or region.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Kraznodar

    Sad that such a great person chose to die so stupidly. A few days of proper medical care and he could have helped Sudan for decades. It is one thing to die for others when it is the only option. When you have alternatives it isn't all that wonderful.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. ColtsNumeroUno!

    It is sad to see a great man pass. He did some really crazy things, in his life, for the cause of raising money for those needy in his home country.

    You are already missed. The world has lost a great person.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. YeYo

    R.I.P. ... Amazing dedication to a great cause.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Rusty

    A great man and a greater legacy. RIP, Manute, you made this world a better place.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Paul

    In an era where we often see pampered, overpaid, self focused athletes, Manute stood tall in more ways than one.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Mike McDermott

    What was the nature of his "kidney problems" that he reportedly suffered from?

    June 22, 2010 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Tony Williams

    Awesome human being!!!!!! He will surely be eternally missed in this world. I hope he finds peace in his final resting place and his work continue as he would want it to.

    Manute was one of the pioneers of the shoot blocker in Basketball.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. william

    Now this is someone who would truly be worthy of being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Adam K.

    I have no great love for professional athletes, but Mr. Bol was one of the few true heroes of success. He didn't let money change his ideals, and fought for what he believed in. God speed Mr. Bol.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Norm

    Had no idea he was doing this work in Sudan.
    His name is a household word from the basketball world.
    What a shame he became sick. There aren't many people like this around and the world needs them desperately

    RIP.....

    June 22, 2010 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jodie A.

    In the Book of Luke, it is said, "Go and do likewise." May many people be inspired by such an amazing, compassionate man. He will be missed by many, even those who did not know him personally.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. peterwolfe

    Ihave never met mr. Bol but from what i have read about him and his selfless efforts in helping the people of Sudan and the many other charities he have given to is way above the average. many people, but he did both the talk and the walk. This man is a great human being and will be missed by everyone whose lives he has touched.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Ian

    I wouldn't go so far as to call him "basketball great." He was really tall, but not great.
    Saw him once in a bar. He was shockingly tall.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Janice

    May god Bless him and his Family. A GREAT loss.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.