Kaye O’ Barra kisses her daughter Edwarda on her birthday on March 20, 2005. credit: Miami Herald

The world’s longest coma patient, Edwarda O’Bara, a Florida woman who remained in a coma for 42 years, has died at the age of 59.

Edwarda O’Bara was a cheerful 16 year old high school student, when she suddenly fell ill in 1970 with a severe bout of pneumonia. She was rushed to the hospital and as she lay in her bed, she turned to her mother, Kaye O’Bara, and pleaded with her to stay near her.

Her final words before she slipped into coma were ‘promise … you won’t leave me.’ True to her word, her mother  never left her side until her death five years back. Edwarda’s sister Colleen then became her primary care giver – until Edwarda passed away on November 21, 2012.

Colleen O’Bara leans over her sister, Edwarda

Remembering Edwarda as ‘the best sister in the whole wide world,’ Colleen said that she learned immensely from the experience. ‘She taught me so much about unconditional love that I couldn’t say I had it before’ Colleen O’Bara said. 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.’

For more than 35 years, Kaye O’Bara remained constantly by Edwarda’s bedside,  to give her daughter  care around the clock.

Kaye  would only sleep for ninety minutes at a time, so she would always be available for her daughter. She  would not institutionalize Edwarda, even though the financial burden was very challenging  to the family.

Even though Kaye died at the age of 80 on March 7, 2008, she had never given up hope that her daughter would one day wake up from coma. Edwarda’s father, Joe, had passed away in 1977  from a heart attack, apparently  brought on by the strain of caring for his comatose 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 job as a horse trainer to care full time for her sister.  She says she hadn’t given it a second thought.

As part of her care, her body had to be turned every two hours to keep away bedsores, she was given insulin and fed through a tube. Colleen would whisper endearements in her sister’s eat, braid her grey hairs, suck the mucus from Edwarda’s throat to allow her to breath and constantly speak to her sister, assuming Edwarda was listening to her  every word.

Family and friends would also visit Edwarda, play music and read to her. 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 across the globe who came and visited the ailing woman and encouraged her family.

Throughout the year, Colleen had updated supporters on Facebook on her sister’s condition.
On Wednesday when she told Edwarda that she was going to get a cup of coffee, she was greeted with a big smile.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.

Edwarda’s story is an inspiration and guidance for all of us; it  proves that unconditional love truly does exist.