The world’s longest coma patient, a Miami woman who had been called the ‘Sleeping Snow White’ during the 42 years she remained comatose, has died at the age of 59.
Edwarda O’Bara was a cheery high school student in 1970 when she suddenly fell ill, threw up her medicine and slipped into a diabetic coma.
But before she became comatose she turned to her mother and pleaded with her to ‘promise … you won’t leave me.’
Her mother stayed true to her word, enduring a grueling schedule to constantly stay near her daughter until the mother died five years ago and the woman’s sister became her primary care giver – until Edwarda passed away on Wednesday.
As a popular 16-year-old, Edwarda had a bright future ahead of her but then she became ill with a severe bout of pneumonia.
In the early hours of January 3 in 1970, she ‘woke up shaking and in great pain because the oral form of insulin she had been taking wasn’t reaching her blood stream,’ according to her family.
She was rushed to hospital and as she lay in her bed, she turned to her mother, Kaye O’Bara, and pleaded with her to stay near.
‘Promise me you won’t leave me,’ the teen begged her mother, according to the Miami Herald.
Terrified, O’Bara assured daughter, ‘Of course not. I would never leave you, darling,’ having no idea of the long ordeal ahead.
The mother kept that promise, taking care of her daughter, until Kaye O’Bara herself died five years ago.
For more than 35 years, Kaye O’Bara remained constantly by Edwarda’s bedside, enduring a grueling schedule to give her daughter around the clock care.
She would only sleep for 90 minutes at a time, so she would always be accessible to her daughter.
The devoted mother would not institutionalize Edwarda, even though the financial burden became a great challenge to the family.
“Promise… you won’t leave me,” the teen begged her mother. “Of course not. I would never leave you, darling,” her mother replied.
Though Kaye died at the age of 80 on March 7, 2008, she never gave up hope that her daughter would one day wake up from her coma.
Edwarda’s father, Joe, had passed away in 1977. He died from a heart attack, believed to have been brought on by the strain of caring for his ailing daughter.
After their mother’s passing, Edwarda’s sister Colleen stepped in and continued the tradition to offer constant care to Edwarda at her home in Miami Gardens.
Colleen quit her previous job as a horse trainer to care full time for her sister.
‘I didn’t give it a second thought. She’s my sister,’ Colleen O’Bara said, ‘and I love her.’
As part of her care, her body was turned every two hours to keep away bedsores, she was given insulin and fed through a tube.
Colleen would also lovingly braid her sister’s grey hairs, suck the mucus from Edwarda’s throat to allow her to breath and constantly speak to her sister, assuming Edwarda was soaking up her every word.
She mixes baby food, milk, eggs, orange juice, Mazola oil, brewer’s yeast and a piece of white bread into a blender and then a wire mesh strainer, pouring the concoction into Edwarda’s feeding tube every two hours, day and night.
She suctions mucus from Edwarda’s throat, whispers endearments in her ear and braids her long gray hair.
Family and friends would also visit her, playing music and reading to the woman.
Kaye O’Bara was a devout Catholic who said she felt the presence of the Virgin Mary in her daughter’s room.
That led Dr. Wayne Dyer to write a book about the family and their unconditional care for Edwarda, ‘A Promise Is A Promise: An Almost Unbelievable Story of a Mother’s Unconditional Love and What It Can Teach Us.’
The book attracted widespread attention and visitors from around the world would come and visit the ailing woman and encourage her family.
‘I had to learn to let strangers in,’ Colleen O’Bara said, ‘because they aren’t strangers.’
Remembering Edwarda as ‘the best sister in the whole wide world,’ Colleen said that she learned so much from the experience.
‘She taught me so much, and I’m talking about now, after she was in the coma,’ Colleen O’Bara said.
‘She taught me so much about unconditional love that I couldn’t say I had it before. She taught me about patience, that I didn’t have before. I learned so much from taking care of my sister. It’s like I grew up overnight.’
“She taught me so much about unconditional love… she taught me about patience. I learned so much from taking care of my sister. It’s like I grew up overnight.”
This April, Colleen gathered friends and family to Miami to celebrate Edwarda’s 59th birthday.
‘We all had a good time at the party especially Edwarda. Everyone was so amazed at how aware of everything going on she was. It was just a good day,’ the sister shared with her friends and supporters on Facebook.
‘My mom’s spirit was so strong that we all felt her with us,’ Colleen added.
Throughout the year, Colleen had updated supporters on Facebook on her sister’s condition.
‘She is still making different sounds and is so much more aware of her surroundings,’ the sister wrote in a posting in October.
‘When I am talking to her I have her total attention, I can tell by the look in her eyes. This just really makes me smile.’
‘Thank you for all the cards and letters I received They always make me smile,’ she added, expressing gratitude.
Even though Colleen was optimistic about her sister’s improvement, she noticed that on Tuesday night, Edwards was having difficulty keeping her food down.
By Wednesday, the woman seemed to be feeling better and her sister told Edwarda that she was going to grab a cup of coffee.
‘I noticed her looking directly at me and gave me the biggest smile I had ever seen,’ her sister said.
When Colleen returned with her coffee, Edwarda had already passed away.
‘She then closed her eyes and joined my Mom in Heaven,’ Colleen announced.
Edwarda is survived by her sister, nephew Richard O’Bara and great-nephew Joseph Michael O’Bara.