It shouldn’t have happened.
Not to Urainia Bendter. Not to her ex-husband. Not to her partner Lamont Sykes. Not to her grieving son. Not to her newborn daughter.
And not to Adaora Elikwu.
At only 12 years old, Adaora was destined for greatness. She knew what she wanted − to go an Ivy League school and be a lawyer one day. She was well on her way, having been accepted into the DREAM Specialized High School Institute to earn a seat at a specialized high school in New York City. Talkative and fond of sharing anything she learned, Adaora had all the tools for success, whether she wanted to be a gifted scholar or a first-rate legal practitioner. But her life was cut short.
“She was my angel,” Urainia shared with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). “She was a beautiful girl, brilliant, a loving daughter, and a sweet sister to her siblings. She was a role model to her peers, never one to get into anything in school. She was always a good student, got good grades, never afraid to try new things, and adored by her teachers and advisors alike. Adaora also had a funny, silly side to her. She knew how to keep the party going.”
Pride gave strength to Urainia’s voice as she told her daughter’s story. Adaora had been diagnosed with eczema (atopic dermatitis) by a dermatologist when she was 3 or 4 years old. They learned to control flare-ups with steroids. When she was 8 or 9, she was also diagnosed with mild-to-moderate asthma. From then on, she would see a pulmonologist (lung specialist) every three or four months.
Adaora was especially close with her younger brother, Ezeora. Together, they would start off each morning by running into the bedroom to give Urainia and their baby sister kisses before heading off to school.
Though she had asthma, it did not run in Adaora’s family. Neither of her parents have it, and nor do either of her siblings. Still, they learned how to manage it as a family.
Her school life was not hindered by her asthma, aside from missing class for the occasional doctor’s appointment. Many people from Adaora’s school community, students and teachers alike, had their own reflections on her time with them.
“[Adaora] died with a kind heart, and we all love and adore her,” said classmate Neveah.
“I remember one time I had a conversation with Adaora about something that I had going on,” classmate Leanny recalls. “Adaora was very kind. She sat down with me and listened to what I had to say. When I was done, she gave me her opinion of the situation, along with some advice. … The fact that Adaora talked to me about this situation made me confront what was true, although I did not want to face it, and I thank her for that!”
“Adaora was an incredibly gifted person who was loved by all,” Mr. Sise of Ditmas Park Middle School (DPMS) said. “I’ll remember her joking and laughing with her friends. I’ll remember her trying to sneak iced coffees by me every morning during advisory. I’ll remember that knowing and sympathetic look she would give during frustrating moments in class…She was funny, kind, ridiculously smart, and hard-working. Adaora left a hole in the DPMS family that will never be filled.”
Adaora’s final words were, “I love you,” to her mother before everything went black. Urainia shared that after her daughter got diagnosed and put on a treatment plan for asthma, Adaora never had even a minor asthma attack, but this first and only time was fatal. On April 27, 2020, Adaora Chibuzor Victoria Elikwu was pronounced dead.
It shouldn’t have happened.
Urainia and Adaora navigated the landscape of asthma management with grace and caution. They took every conceivable precaution. Along with never missing an appointment, Adaora’s medicine was always well-stocked at home.
Urainia is now a firm advocate for asthma research and awareness. It is not commonly acknowledged how deadly an impact asthma can have – taking the lives of 3,400 to 3,600 people each year. By sharing Adaora’s story, Urainia hopes to inspire awareness so other families can avoid similar tragedies.
AAFA is grateful for the opportunity to help share Urainia’s story and honor Adaora’s memory. Bold changes are needed to reduce the burden of asthma on racial and ethnic minorities.
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