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Jean-Pierre and Bernadette with a newborn son in 1969

NIMES, France, January 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – For nearly 33 years, French soccer star Jean-Pierre Adams has been in a coma, cared for most of that time by his wife Bernadette. Never has she considered euthanasia.

“It is unthinkable,” she tells one journalist. “What do you want me to do, deprive him of food? Let him die little by little? … He cannot say, and it is not for me to decide for him.”

But she recounts that in his early days in hospital, after a knee operation under botched anesthesia that starved his brain of oxygen, she feared, “every time I went to the hospital, that someone would ask me if I wanted to disconnect.”

She admitted in the same interview with CNN that her life would have been very different without the accident, but she says, “My regret is for our children,” not for herself. “They have not had their father behind them.”

Bernadette and Jean-Pierre met in the late 1960s when he was a rising amateur soccer star. As a 10-year-old he had been brought by his devoutly Catholic grandmother from Senegal on a pilgrimage. She enrolled him in school and then allowed him to be adopted by a French couple.


Her parents were unhappy at the prospect of an interracial marriage until they actually met the charming and outgoing Jean-Pierre. “After that, everything was fine, and he was seen in a better light than me,” she joked.

After helping his amateur team to a national championship, Bernadette's husband played for a succession of first-rate professional teams and defense for the national team with another African immigrant under the collective title “the Black Guard.”

By 1982 and the father of two, Jean-Pierre was playing for lesser squads and developing an interest in coaching youths. In Lyon for a training course he checked into a hospital to have a minor but chronic knee injury checked out. A doctor who was also a fan offered to fit him into surgery, but the timing could hardly have been worse. Many staff were on strike, and an under-qualified and overworked surgical team blocked his breathing and sent Jean-Louis into the coma that persists today.

He can breathe and sleep on his own. He opens his eyes but sees nothing. His hearing, however, is more sensitive, and Bernadette says he stirs when he hears voices again after a long absence, and when she talks to him. “He senses when it is not me feeding him and looking after him,” she says.

The older he gets, the dimmer the hope grows that these hints of awareness will hold out.

The somnolent form in the hospital-style bed offers a strong contrast with the husband Bernadette remembers – a bon-vivant, boisterous, and readily smiling man who loved cigars and Brazilian music. As a player, recalls teammate Henri Michel, “he was a force of nature, very strong physically, and it was a pleasure to play with him.”

Every day now Bernadette changes his clothes, washes him, and feeds him with a nurse's help and spends most of her day, from 7 am to 8 pm, with him. “Some days, when the night goes badly, I am up the whole time.” But Jean-Pierre is healthy and appears not to have aged much, except for a few white hairs, reports Bernadette.

A government annuity won after a lengthy legal battle and funds raised by charity soccer matches support the couple. What worries her, at 72 years of age to her husband's 67, is that she might die first, leaving him to institutional care. “He'll die without being looked after,” she says. “He needs me to be able to eat, to meet his primary needs. If I don't do it, who will?”