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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. DN3

    @lacrosseson: I don't believe there is any such thing as being too selfless. These people are able to see beyond the here and now.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Gail

    We have lost a great humanitarian, sharing with the world about compassion and love for those less fortunate than he. In days and times such as we are going through, may God bless Mr. Bol, and that he rests in peace. Amen

    June 22, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Joe Vancouver

    Imagine if there were more people like Mr. Bol in the world? I am willing to bet that for every one person like him, we could reduce the army by 20. Get some well deserved rest sir, you've earned it.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Denise

    What a tremendous act of love this was. RIP

    June 22, 2010 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. duffey

    There is no greater gift then a person to give his life for another.
    You are now with our Divine Creator Mr. Bol.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dave

    I worked with a guy who at the time was playing basketball with Manute at the University of Bridgeport. He had nothing but great things to say about Manute.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Andy H

    Wonderful to hear of his commitment to his homeland and all of his good works. I wish that we could recognize this more in life than in death.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Stephen

    Of course he would still be alive if he went to Sudan. Western medicine killed him....just like it did my entire family.

    The west knows nothing of healing.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Cliff

    I can't help but think he was used and then thrown away by the NBA. RIP Manute.

    June 22, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. hjs3

    Clearly a great and loving soul..

    Not enuf of 'em around either.

    Huge loss....

    June 22, 2010 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mike

    @ John R.

    What do you mean "if this story is true?"

    No it's FAKE!!!

    Of course it's true you stupid IDIOT.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Patricia

    My heart goes out to Mr. Bol's family and beloved country. Let's only hope his example and sacrifice will encourage others to pick up his mantle. "There is no greater love...." Bible

    June 22, 2010 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Shark

    I met Manute Bol back in his playing days. I met him at a downtown nightclub after an NBA game. He was hanging out with another player from his team. While his teammate partied it up and chased women, Bol sat quietly in the back. I struck up a conversation with him. He was polite, genuine, and interesting to chat with. He insisted on buying me and my buddy a beer. For years me and my buddy used to joke about the time we "hung out" with Manute Bol. He may not be in the NBA Hall of Fame, but I'm positive he's just been inducted into Heaven.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Kim

    It's clear to see that Mr. Bol lived his life extraordinarily. I loved the comment about his new team in Heaven – so true! I hope that Mr. Bol's life will inspire others to reach such heights and to love others so selflessly. Job well done Manute!

    June 22, 2010 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. lisa

    Thank you CNN for properly explaining that he developed Stevens-Johnson syndrome as a reaction to a medication. After all of Bol's work, he would certainly not want like-minded people to hesitate to give time and effort to Sudan because they fear this disease. Poor, uninformed writings of so many media reports imply he acquired this deadly condition from interactions in Sudan. I hope pulicized, proper information helps someone else realize they need emergency care sooner if developing this deadly reaction.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Byrd

    If compassion killed Manute, then I can sure think of worse ways to die. Peace be unto you, my brother, and a safe journey home. Tell 'em all that I'll be there soon.

    Clay

    June 22, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. TonyJustin

    Manute Bol was a great and interesting person. I had the opportunity to see him play basketball many times, and I once met him. For many people, to go through life that unbelievably tall would have been difficult, but he embraced his uniqueness.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. carl

    Excuse me, Ian – Manute's 3.34 blocks per game was second all-time.

    I think that justly earns him the title "basketball great".

    June 22, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. luis acevedo

    to greg:

    the article is not vague
    it clearly says
    "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." stevens johnson is a side effect to wrong medication
    or overdose of medication. Once you get it your chance to survive
    is 1 in a 1000... google it

    June 22, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. peaceNow

    The best tribute we can give Manute is to continue what he started–I found his school building program listed at http://www.sudansunrise.org.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. johnny

    Shoot Manute shoot !! Shoot Manute shoot !! That was the chant at the Spectrum when he had the ball as a Sixer. Occasionally he would shoot, but for the good of the team his pass would result in a score.
    Some people never change. God Bless.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Stephen

    Manute Bol...rest in peace big fella'. You were a great example of what people should be!

    Jessica...not so much you! BTW...your pimp called...time to get back to work!

    June 22, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. pockets

    He gives us all an example of the goodness of the human spirit. I do hope that others will carry on his work, perhaps his former collegues in the basketball association. I know that Charles Barkey was supposedly close to him, maybe Charles will step up and do something in his memory and get others to do the same. His good work should not die with him but go on. May he rest in peace. His suffering is over.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. debbie

    I wish I would have known such a great man rip Manute

    June 22, 2010 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. peace2you

    Very sad. His love for his people and his country is his real legacy. Perhaps, God needs his skills else where.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Steve

    Manute Bol was a wonderful humanitarian, and God knows, we need many more like him in this world. I will always remember Manute playing for the Golden State Warriors in the Boston Garden, and it was late in the game with the shot clock running down to just a few seconds....Manute had the ball behind the 3 point line and the Garden crowd yelled "shoot!!"......looking like a man throwing a boulder, Bol heaved up a shot that touched nothing but net. He turned around to run back on defense with a grin that stretched ear-to-ear....the Boston crowd cheered as if Larry Bird made the basket. A great moment.
    RIP Manute Bol.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. I wonder

    Will we say the same thing about Beck, Hannity, Coulter, and Palin when they pass?

    Makes you think about who truly matters in this world huh? Without the work of the truly generous, and surrounded only by anger, civilization would crack and crumble in a few years. Which I often think many of our "leaders" actually want to have happen because they do not see the bigger picture and realize there is a lot of money in misery, paranoia, and anger!!

    RIP you tall SOB!!!!! It is a sad day in America when one of the finest that have walked our shores is from the Sudan and played basketball, while our "leaders" spew hate and filth...from both sides. Go Figure. One day we will wake up and realize that our nation is more important than petty figure heads.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Dan

    While he was no doubt a great and selfless man; there was little surprise that he died at the age of 47. For someone that was born in 1962 Sudan, the average life expectancy is 43.557 years of age. That, coupled with his great size (which can be extremely taxing on a body) is what ultimately led to his passing. Compassion didn't kill Manute Bol; it's the one thing that allowed him to walk this Earth as long as he did.

    June 22, 2010 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Youwillbemissed

    One of our Giant Oaks have fallen – a true Hero and Gentleman!

    June 22, 2010 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Eric

    So sad to learn of Manute's passing. He was truly a role model for everyone in the world, and a hero that we can all look up to. He gave everything he had to help his people. He represented the best in humanity.

    June 22, 2010 at 16:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Mo

    People may have joked about Manute, but I don't think it was mean-spirited joking...he was a big man, jovial, almost child like in the interviews that you'd hear of him, I remember him being a rookie and a SI cover with him trying to bench press just the bar (maybe a pound or two on either side, the minds eye may be playing tricks), no weights...he was just a gangly big dude, probably not much more than 195, maybe 200 if he had a meal before the weigh in...you'd hear off and on his workings in his home country...didn't know he was sick, such a shame that we have lost a real good guy in the sporting world, he just seemed to be a guy that "got it", that he could use his fame and fortune to make the world a little bit better place and he seemed to enjoy doing it.

    June 22, 2010 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. V

    I was on a high school dance squad,where we once performed during halftime when he played for the RI Gulls. I later met him in downtown Newport, RI, and he was so sweet and a great person to talk with. This news saddens me and my prayers to his family.

    June 22, 2010 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Granite101

    I know nothing about basketball, I don't pay attention. But years ago when Manute Bol first came to play basketball in the United States I took an interest in the life of this man. He was much more than just a basketball player I could tell way back then, he was going to be special. Sure enough, Manute Bol did turn out to be something very special, very caring and very wonderful. I am so sorry to hear of his passing.

    June 22, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. jason

    big man = great man... at least in this instance. could of easily been corrupted by wealth and fame... so many other paths he could of taken, yet he remained true... gotta respect that. the world has lost an extraordinary human being.

    June 22, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Beverly Peutz

    My prayers go out to Manute's family, friends, and loved ones, especially Tom Prichard whom I know loved him and looked after his medical needs.

    I am saddened by the derogatory comments that come from those who see only the leg of the elephant. I am encouraged by those who realize that a man of God's mission makes selfless sacrifices and by those who will now carry on Manute's work through Sudan Sunrise.

    bev

    June 22, 2010 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. daffypanda

    Manute Bol was a great man. I wish I had known him personally. I feel bad for his family and friends to be having to go through this rough time. Just remember he is know in a much better place and will no longer have health problems but total happiness. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." It is too bad that there are not more people out there that is can be called a great man such as Manute Bol.My prayers will go out for his family and for those who will continue to build his schools in Sudan.

    June 22, 2010 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. GloLin

    What the public does not know about this man is that he was a major dickhead who hated women even though he had a wife with several girlfriends on the side (all knowing about one another). He was very demeaning of women. I hope that he's gotten his just reward. He certainly had the public bamboozled. Good riddance!

    June 22, 2010 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sandi

      THERE IS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL FOR YOU. WHAT A WORTHLESS EXCUSE FOR A HUMAN BEING YOU ARE!!!!!!!!

      June 29, 2010 at 04:05 | Report abuse |
  38. Sunday Taabu

    Manut, we will miss you forever. I enjoyed your jokes when I first met you at GOSS Mssion and at Miss South Sudan USA Beauty Pageant. We will always love you for you are the one and only Manute the world ever known. Rest in peace.

    June 22, 2010 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. cdog13

    He was a great man who will be deeply missed even though i did not know of him very long.

    June 22, 2010 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Viola Lita

    Manute Bol was one of the few wonderful kind hearted people i have ever met.The short time that i have come to know him while he was in the hospital was a blessing. He would always smile and make sure he welcomed you even though he was in great pain. He always put others before himself. Manute, you are my hero and definately the world is not a better place without you. May God Almighty rest your soul in an everlasting peace.

    June 22, 2010 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Mark McKee

    He actually suited up for a hockey game a few years back for a promo with the Indianapoils Ice of the CHL. The guy had such a great sense of humor and humility. And so, on top of everything else he accomplished, hockey fans know that Manute was, and always will be, the tallest man to ever lace em up. He was a man that deserved to be taken seriously, though he never felt that way. What an outstanding human being. And with skates on, that put him at about 7' 10". I guess he always was a few feet closer to God than the rest of us.

    June 23, 2010 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. nettie

    help continue manute's mission to build 41 schools in sudan. go to sudansunrise.org. this will bring smiles to manute's face in heaven, i'm sure.

    June 23, 2010 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. darkemstre

    wow, this is sad. To all the supposed Christians out there worried about our borders, would you be able to show the same compassion as this man? Could you do what he did? Could you overlook your politics to show compassion to those that need it. Could you sacrafice for your fellow man? Jesus did. Manute did. Now it's your turn!

    June 23, 2010 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Janelle

    I did not know much about Manute Bol except that he was a basketball player. However, this is the first time I read the AOL comment section in which everyone positiviely agreed on a person. No one has made a negative comment about him, and for this opinionated and sometimes judgemental forum the absence of criticism demonstrates the true greatness of Manute Bol.

    June 23, 2010 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. fanana

    my great hero, bol left southern sudan when i was 10yrs old, i met bol in 2007 at miss south sudan peasant show, tall humble man,making fun of me cuz 5.5 he said i never seen a short sudanese like u, there's no generious heart u can found in the continent of africa than southern sudan, bol gave his life for our people with the reason that if we fail as a berlin wall of africa, then the whole continent will be doom and the gate of hell shall be open, may his spirit uplift us to do the same for the sake of our peoples.

    June 23, 2010 at 02:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Patrick Labay

    Loss of a beautiful gentle giant and a loving father

    June 23, 2010 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jaynissi

    I met Manute Bol way back in 1998. We were standing in line at the same restaurant in DC. I remember being impressed at his size compared to mine. Did not know his heart was really the biggest thing about him... Thanks for sharing.

    RIP Manute.

    June 23, 2010 at 06:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RML

    It is the quiet and unpublicized people in the world who make it great. The rest is just noise.

    Oddly enough, this man's death, and a reminder of his own self-sacrifice for the good of others, was the most uplifting news of the week. That says a lot about the man...

    June 23, 2010 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Jen M

    No greater love has a man for his friends (or country) than he would lay down his life for them. Clearly this was a man of love.

    June 23, 2010 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Lisa Siembab

    The greatest tribute to Manute, a selfless warrior, would be to continue working toward the dream he had for Sudan. Reconciliation and unity for ALL Sudanese – Christian and Muslim. His goal of building 41 schools is attainable. Let us honor Manute by reaching deep within our hearts (and pockets) to make sure the "Manute Dream" becomes a reality.

    May God bless his family, friends and his Sudanese brothers. Now to move forward and continue his work – which is what he would want....

    June 23, 2010 at 10:23 | 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.