Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jean-Pierre Adams: The 33-year coma that can't stop love

Life now

Jean-Pierre Adams is a former France international who has spent the last 33 years in a coma.

After 15 months in hospital, local authorities suggested to Bernadette that the best place for her husband would be a nearby home for the elderly.
"I don't think they knew how to look after him, so I said to myself: 'He will come home' and I've looked after him ever since," says Bernadette.
Every day, she wakes just before seven o'clock and has her breakfast -- precious minutes spent alone -- as she readies herself to care for her husband.
It's a mix of changing clothes, shaving, preparing food -- all of it blended -- and delivering it, which can take an hour, helping Jean-Pierre go to the toilet, while also helping the kinesiologist ensure his lungs are clean and his muscles exercised to avoid choking and atrophying.
If she is lucky her day finishes at eight, when Jean-Pierre might go to sleep.
"Sometimes when the night goes badly, I'm up for the whole thing."
The round-the-clock care leaves little time to earn a living, but thankfully for the stoic Bernadette, she receives an annuity after a court ruled in her favour -- albeit after a decade-long legal battle.
"The process lasted nearly 12 years. I think it's designed to discourage people," she ventures. "If I hadn't had the support of football, I would have been completely broke."
The French league, football federation and the Variety Club of France -- a club for former France internationals -- all rallied together to help with her legal fees.
Although the accident occurred in 1982, it wasn't until 1989 that the medical staff were found guilty of 'involuntary injury' --- and even then, it still needed nearly five more years to decide the family's dues.
"We've played five or six games over the years because we knew that Bernadette was in financial and psychological difficulty," Jacques Vendroux, the general manager of the Variety Club of France, told CNN.
"Jean-Pierre was someone very appealing and deserved help. He is still alive and that is amazing."
He's also made to feel as much part of family life as possible, with his room adjoining the house's focal point, the kitchen-cum-living room.
"I talk to him all the time -- about TV, what's in the mail, anything!" Bernadette says. "There is always movement around him. He is always next to us."
When I ask whether she ever imagines conversations the pair might have had, the 72-year-old Bernadette momentarily chokes up -- a brief insight into the true cost of the accident for a proud and serene woman.
"I don't know," she replied. "It's difficult to say. I say he doesn't understand my words but there might be moments when he has a flash. Perhaps for an instant, just an instant, he understands something."
It's unlikely though.