‘Tragic yet heartwarming’: How Jean-Pierre Adams touched a nerve

Story highlights

Readers react to tale of tragic soccer star

Wife has looked after him since 1982

Now 68, he has spent half his life in coma

CNN first published his story in January

CNN —  

Thursday marks 34 years to the day since former France international Jean-Pierre Adams entered into a coma following a botched operation on his knee.

Having turned 68 earlier this month, the ex-footballer has now spent half of his life in this condition – with his wife Bernadette still lovingly tending to him.

CNN first published his story in January, prompting an incredible response.

It is fair to say that Jean-Pierre’s story touched a nerve.

Perhaps it’s hardly surprising given the emotion that courses through his tale.

On one hand, there is sympathy for the way his life was cruelly and needlessly turned upside down.

On the other, there’s the way his wife Bernadette has unfailingly stuck by his side through the years.

Despite having no medical training prior to his accident on March 17, 1982, she has cared for the man she married in 1969 in the family home ever since.

Read: The three-decade coma that can’t stop love

Once a strapping physical specimen, Jean-Pierre now spends most of his day in bed – incapable of nearly all voluntary movement, although he can digest food and open and close his eyes.

Yet it had all once been going so well.

Despite humble beginnings in Senegal, Jean-Pierre had risen up to play for the French national team in the 1970s after emigrating to the European nation as a child.

But as his career wound down, some routine surgery on a troublesome knee went awry.

03:13 - Source: CNN
Jean-Pierre and Bernadette Adams: A love like no other

“Given it was not a vital operation, that the hospital was on strike, they were missing doctors and (the anesthetist) was looking after eight patients, in two different rooms, someone should have called me to say they were going to delay the operation,” says Bernadette.

They didn’t – and the disastrous operation left Jean-Pierre so starved of oxygen he suffered catastrophic brain damage and a massive cardiac arrest.

After a little over a year in hospital, local authorities suggested to Bernadette that the best place for her husband would be a nearby home for the elderly.

She refused and has looked after him ever since – - giving round-the-clock care and rarely spending time apart from her invalidated husband.

There are no pictures of Jean-Pierre today as Bernadette is keen to preserve the legacy of her husband as he was prior to his cruel accident.

Minor miracle?

It wasn’t just readers who were moved by Jean-Pierre’s story.

A company called mindBEAGLE hopes it can use modern technology to enable Jean-Pierre and Bernadette to interact.

In theory, this would work by using a computer to detect changes in brain activity induced by the patient’s mental activity – thus creating a system whereby a limited form of communication could take place.

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Both Bernadette and mindBEAGLE are in touch with a doctor who will potentially try the technology on Jean-Pierre in due course.

However, mindBEAGLE’s Brendan Allison, who contacted CNN after Jean-Pierre’s story was published in January, advises caution.

“Given the long time since the hospital error, the odds that Jean-Pierre could communicate are low,” he warns.

Like his wife Bernadette, readers may well be hoping for a minor miracle.