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July 6, 1989 | For 19 years, mother keeps a lonely vigil

At 3 a.m. on Jan. 3, 1970, Edwarda O'Bara, a 16-year-old junior at Norland High School in North Dade, a young woman accepted to the University of Notre Dame when Notre Dame was nearly all-male, closed her eyes to a promising future.

She entered a diabetic coma.

Doctors told her parents, Kaye and Joseph O'Bara, that they had never known of any person who had entered Edwarda's state and come out of it.

Edwarda has not come out of it.

"The hardest time was when she first got sick, " said Kaye O'Bara, now 61. "Within those three days, her lungs collapsed, her kidneys collapsed, she got pneumonia and she had to have a tracheotomy.

"The only money we had was $35,000 in insurance. But we met a doctor who saved us, Dr. Louis Chaykin at Parkway Hospital. 'Save your money, ' he said, 'you'll need it.' He's never charged us a penny since.

"Boy, did we need it. Joe had a heart attack two years after Edwarda got sick, and right after that he took two jobs just so we could care for Edwarda and make ends meet."

The strain proved too much for Joe, who died in July 1976. He didn't leave much in his will. The responsibility of caring for Edwarda was now Kaye's alone.

"Mom, you won't leave me, will you?"

The last words took on new meaning.

Kaye moved out of her bedroom and onto the brown velvet recliner that stood inches from Edwarda's bed -- in the medically equipped room she and Joe had added onto the house.

Kaye refused to leave the house until 1980.

And with no husband to take turns with her, she had to give Edwarda intravenous food and medicine every two hours around the clock.

Kaye taught the feeding method to her friends and her grandson Ricky, now 13, who had moved in. But when everyone else is sleeping, Kaye feeds Edwarda and turns her to prevent bed sores -- at midnight, 2, 4, 6 and 8 in the morning.

"I fit in sleep as I can, " Kaye said.

"And Edwarda lets you know when she's hungry. She screams and she stretches her legs and arms. I know she's in pain and I wish it were me.

"God has given me a special bond with a special child who has helped so many."

Kaye enjoys talking about her daughter, now 36, and through the press and personal appeals, she has shared their last 19 years with the public.

"People come here all the time to visit Edwarda, and they get the inspiration to help their disabled relatives.

"What gets me so mad is when I hear, 'Don't feed her food, don't do this, don't do that.' Look at what she's given us."

It's 2 in the afternoon, time for Edwarda to be fed and turned.