Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The story of Edwarda O'Bara, a story of love and commitment

An article written by Wayne Drash for CNN and published on December 23 recounts the love of a mother and family for their daughter and sister who lived in a comatose condition for 42 years. The article that was titled: Comatose since Christmas 1969: A tale of unconditional love and miracles focuses on the life and love of the O'Bara family for Edwarda who went into diabetic shock on January 3, 1970 and became comatose.

Family and friends, Edwarda's 51st birthday.
Edwarda was cared for, around the clock at home, by her mother Kathryn (Kaye) until she died in March 2008 and more recently she was cared for by her younger sister Colleen until Edwarda recently died on November 21, 2012.

This is a difficult story to consider outside of the concept of the love of a person for another person or in this case, for their child or sister.

The story of unconditional love for Edwarda includes religious overtones that many people would immediately reject. It is true that religious experiences are private and personal.  The greatest miracle was the care, love and  commitment that the O'Bara family provided Edwarda. 

It is wrong that some people have suggested that the family was somehow causing Edwarda to suffer. This is a story of love and commitment.

It is particularly distressing that the Hemlock Society thought that it was part of their mandate to try to convince the O'Bara family to stop caring for Edwarda. The story states:
"The Hemlock Society phoned often, pleading with the mother to let her daughter die. The day after Christmas in 1981 someone called to say he was going to put Edwarda out of her misery. A few hours later three bullets were fired into the home. No one was hurt."
Colleen caring for her sister Edwarda
Why would the Hemlock Society care that Edwarda's family were willing to love and care for her. Wasn't it their choice? The family cared for Edwarda, they weren't harming her.

The Hemlock Society changed its name to Compassion & Choices a few years ago.

In 1970, when Edwarda became Comatose, there was very little knowledge about the awareness of a person who is considered Persistent Vegetative State or Comatose. Today, researchers are learning a lot more about these conditions.

The story quotes Stephen Mayer, a professor of neurology and neurological surgery at Columbia University, who has treated many comatose patients over the years. The story states
"He says new research suggests that patients in persistent vegetative states may perceive what's around them in a way that doctors didn't previously understand. 
"The best evidence of that are people who don't follow commands and appear to be vegetative, but after several years they wake up and start following commands," says Mayer. 
Mayer, who did not treat Edwarda, says it's possible "she was perceiving what was going on around her to some extent over those 40 years, but not really able to communicate to us in a way that we can believe. And maybe the daily contact, the voices, the touches with her loved ones gave her reason to live." 
"One thing I've learned over the years as somebody who treats people in a coma and tries to save them," he says, "is there's something very important about human contact with the people that bring meaning to your life, your loved ones."
A mother caring for her daughter.

Kathryn believed that to the fullest.

The love and commitment to care for Edwarda was a counter-cultural message that needs to be upheld as an example of the true dignity of human beings. I would rather live in a world that is willing to care for its most vulnerable members than a world that views its most vulnerable members as expendable.

The O'Bara family went above and beyond what was required or expected of them. 

Their love and commitment should be celebrated and emulated.


Kathryn H said...

Where it seems like no home should be, Hope walks in anyways.

Aura Lea said...

Wonderful story!!!