Devoted mother never left bedside of daughter in longest coma in medical history

By Vicki Newman
Published
edwarda obara and mother split image

The longest coma ever recorded in medical history lasted for 42 years before the patient tragically lost her life.

An American woman named Edwarda O’Bara was just 16 years old when she slipped into a diabetic coma on 3 January 1970.

She was born in Miami, Florida, in 1953 and had a childhood history of diabetes, which she managed with insulin.

But tragically, in December 1969, she contracted pneumonia and the two illnesses proved too much for her body to deal with.

Her condition got worse and worse over two weeks and she was taken to hospital, where she fell into a coma.

That day happened to be the 22nd wedding anniversary of her mother Kaye and father Joe.

Before she lost consciousness, she asked her mother to never leave her side.

Kaye told her: “Of course not, I would never leave you, darling, I promise. And a promise is a promise!”

Edwarda and her mother Kaye

Edwarda was fed by a tube, and keeping her promise, Kaye remained by her bedside as much as she could for the next 38 years, turning her from side to side every two hours to help prevent bedsores while caring for her at their family home.

Kaye never slept for more than 90 minutes at a time so she could read to her daughter, play music for her, and talk to her.

Joe even gave up his job to look after her.

But the family struggled financially, with Edwarda’s care leaving them with $200,000 of debt by 2007.

Joe suffered a heart attack in 1972 and died four years later at the age of 50.

Kaye died in 2008, aged 81, with Edwarda’s younger sister, Colleen, then taking over her care.

Edwarda’s final birthday fell in April 2012, when she turned 59 and was sent messages from thousands of well-wishers.

She died on 21 November, that year.

Her memory lives on today though.

Colleen runs a website and a Facebook page dedicated to her sister.

The site says Edwarda was a “vivacious” teenager before the tragic events.

Edwarda’s story was also told in book A Promise Is A Promise: An Almost Unbelievable Story of a Mother's Unconditional Love and What It Can Teach Us, written by Dr Wayne Dyer with Marcelene Dyer.

He’s quoted as saying on Edwarda’s website: “This is not a novel with characters who fall in love in a romantic fashion. This is not a story with a plot that winds its way through literary channels to a clever conclusion. What you hold in your hand is a book about unconditional love. Each page represents a real-life, day-to-day commitment to giving and serving in the highest sense of love that I can imagine.”

Colleen shares regular updates on the website and on Facebook and leads prayer groups.

Visitors to the website are invited to make a donation to the O’Bara family to help with the debt they accumulated while caring for their beloved Edwarda.

The longest coma to awake from lasted 18 years 333 days.

Kaye never left her daughter's side

Terry Wallis (USA, b. 7 April 1964) fell into a coma after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a major car accident.

It happened in Stone County, Arkansas, USA, on 13 July 1984, and left him in a minimally conscious state.

It was on 11 June 2003 when he suddenly began speaking.

Terry died in March 2022 at the age of 57.

Before his passing, he had been the subject of a major study that examined how the brain could repair itself after being damaged.

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