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Oct. 23, 1991 | Hardship for family gets worse

Everyday adversity does not discourage Kaye O'Bara.

If it did, she could not have provided around-the-clock home care for her daughter, Edwarda, 38, who was been in a diabetic coma since January of 1970. But on Friday, the adversity became violent and ugly.

O'Bara, 64, and a niece were roughed up and robbed of about $1,200 in front of O'Bara's home in Northwest Dade.

Some young men who were in a van cruising the neighborhood jumped out of the vehicle at 4 p.m. Friday, O'Bara said Tuesday. One man went for O'Bara's niece, Pam Burdgick, while another attacked O'Bara.

"You know how you see the karate on television, " O'Bara, said in describing a series of kicks to her chest and abdomen.

"I fell back flat, " she said. "My knees didn't buckle or anything -- he hit me with such force."

As she struck the ground, O'Bara was bloodied by a cut on the side of her head that took 10 stitches to close.

Inside the house, O'Bara's younger daughter, Colleen O'Bara, 36, realized that her mother was being mugged. As the men drove off, Colleen jumped on a motorbike she keeps in the garage.

She tracked the van into heavy traffic. When the van stopped, she picked up a concrete curb marker and threw it through one of the vehicle's windows.

"They were counting the money, " Colleen said. In her fury, she was not concerned that the men might turn on her.

The van roared away. Metro-Dade police later found the vehicle, which had been stolen. The cash was gone but the purses were inside. The muggers have not been found.

Kaye O'Bara is a deeply religious widow and an ex-school teacher whose long vigil beside her stricken daughter has made her a nationally known example of the power of motherly love. She is not bitter about the crime.

Under normal circumstances, the thieves would not have gotten nearly so much, she said. But a benefactor had given O'Bara $200. And her niece had just cashed a large check and was going to give some of the money to help cover the expenses of caring for Edwarda.

That means that the family's life returns to its seemingly perpetual money crisis.

Although Edwarda receives some government aid, her basic food and supplies cost about $500 a month more than the assistance covers.

Over the years, friends and other concerned people have donated equipment, services or have helped to pay bills. Many of the donors learned about O'Bara through the writing of Charles Whited, the Herald columnist who died of cancer earlier this year.

Despite being sore and bruised, Kaye O'Bara is again fully immersed in the routine of caring for Edwarda. But then, she has been at Edwarda's side for more than two decades.

The room where Edwarda lies in either a sleep or a semi- sleep looks like a sophisticated hospital setting. Her mother handles the equipment with the practiced dexterity of a nurse or doctor.

"She's never had a bed sore, " the mother said.

That's because she turns her daughter every two hours, day or night. Kaye O'Bara sleeps in chairs in the room, which is equipped with multiple alarm clocks.

The mother believes that the daughter is slowly, almost infinitesimally moving nearer consciousness.

O'Bara believes that someday Edwarda will awaken again and lead a normal life.

"Then I'll be able to lie down, " she said.