Jean-Pierre Adams: The 39-year coma that didn’t stop love

Jean-Pierre Adams won 22 caps for France between 1972 and 1976.
AFP/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Jean-Pierre Adams won 22 caps for France between 1972 and 1976.

Story highlights

Former France international Jean-Pierre Adams had been in coma for 39 years

Adams fell into coma after routine operation went wrong

Adams was looked after by his wife Bernadette until his passing at 73

Editor’s Note: Former France international Jean-Pierre Adams entered into a coma in 1982 following a botched operation on his knee. His story is being republished by CNN International to mark his passing on September 6, 2021. The article was first published on January 4, 2016.

Nimes, France CNN —  

What present do you buy a man who has been in a coma for more than 30 years?

That’s the question the family of former France international Jean-Pierre Adams, whose life was brutally turned upside down in 1982, asks itself every year on key anniversaries.

Thirty-nine years ago the beefy footballer, then 34, walked into a Lyon hospital for some routine surgery to correct a troublesome knee.

By the time he left, he would never talk, walk or move any of his limbs again.

His wife Bernadette has tended to him ever since, barely missing a day’s care over the last three decades.

“No one ever forgets to give Jean-Pierre presents, whether it’s his birthday, Christmas or Father’s Day,” Bernadette told CNN.

Adams, who turned 73 on March 10, can breathe on his own, without the assistance of a machine, and has his own room, where he spends most of the day in the type of modified bed normally found in a hospital.

“We buy presents like a T-shirt or a jumper because I dress him in his bed – he changes clothes every day,” his wife explains at the family home near Nîmes, in the south of France, where Bernadette cares for Jean-Pierre.

“I’ll buy things so that he can have a nice room, such as pretty sheets, or some scent. He used to wear Paco Rabanne but his favorite one stopped so now I buy Sauvage by Dior.”