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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Helen Etuk, Who Planned to be a Pediatrician, Dies at 20

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This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Helen Etuk dreamed of becoming a pediatrician. A senior in college, she loved children and planned to dedicate herself to giving them healthy lives.

And because she was raised by a single mother, Ms. Etuk was determined that once she became a doctor, she would take care of children even if their mothers couldn’t afford to pay.

But she never got that far. She died from complications of the coronavirus on Jan. 12 at a hospital in Arlington, Texas, where her family lives, her mother, Ellen Clinton, said in a telephone interview. Ms. Clinton said that her daughter also had lupus, a chronic disease of the immune system, and had been in some discomfort from pain in her joints. She was 20.

Ms. Etuk was studying at the University of North Texas in Denton. Her mother said she had been going to in-person classes, and even though she wore a mask and tried to maintain social distance from other people, she developed a bad cough that turned out to a symptom of Covid-19.

“She blamed herself, saying she made a mistake in going back to school,” Ms. Clinton said. “She said that sometimes students pull their masks down, so they cover their mouths but not their noses.”

Her daughter was hospitalized for almost three months before she died.

Helen Otobong Etuk was born on Feb. 22, 2000, in Dallas. Her mother works as a health care consultant. Her father, Bassey Etuk, an Army veteran, was not involved in raising her.

In addition to her mother, Ms. Etuk is survived by three older brothers, Jeffrey, Jeremy and Joseph Ayisire, and an older sister, Linda Ayisire.

Ms. Etuk sang in the church choir, was part of the color guard at Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield, Texas, from which she graduated in 2018, and liked to watch the History and Discovery channels. But mostly, she liked to read.

“She never asked for dolls,” her mother said. “She always asked for books.”

She was most fond of novels. She started devouring all of Harry Potter when she was eight. The Twilight series was also a favorite.

“When I would go to Walmart, she would say, ‘Can I buy books?’” her mother said. “That’s when I knew she was smart.”

She paused before adding: “She would have done so much.”

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