Long Beach High School state wrestling champion Dunia Sibomana-Rodriguez, who journeyed from the Republic of the Congo to Long Island and Stony Brook Children’s Hospital for critical and life-changing facial reconstructive surgery, was featured last week on ESPN.
Sibomana-Rodriguez won a New York State high school wrestling championship last year as an eighth grader, and ESPN followed him on his return trip this year, where he advanced to the state semifinals at 110 pounds, eventually finishing in third place.
Sibomana-Rodriguez came to the United States in 2015 as an eight-year-old from the Congo in need of rare facial reconstructive surgery at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. At age six, he survived an attack by chimpanzees while playing with his brother and cousin at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two other boys were killed; Sibomana suffered severe injuries to his lips and face.
Rangers from the national park connected Sibomana with Stony Brook Children’s Hospital through renowned anthropologist Richard Leakey, chair of the Turkana Basin Institute. Leakey connected with his friend Alexander Dagum, executive vice chair of surgery and chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Stony Brook Medicine, who discussed Sibomana’s case with Leon Klempner, then an associate professor of dentistry at the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine and founder of the nonprofit Smile Rescue Fund for Kids.
Sibomana-Rodriguez lived with two host families before being taken in by Long Beach assistant wrestling coach Miguel Rodriguez; eventually he and his wife Marissa adopted him. He became a permanent U.S. resident in 2019.
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