Jean Pierre Adams

French Footballer Jean-Pierre Adams dies after 39-year coma

The former France international player Jean-Pierre Adams has died at the age of 73, some 39 years after falling into a coma as a result of a medical error. His former clubs, Paris St-Germain and Nîmes, released the sad news on Monday. In 1982 the French defender went to hospital and was given anaesthetic intended to knock him out for a few hours.

However, the then 34-year-old’s life was brutally turned upside down and he never awoke.

Since the accident happened, Adams was cared for at home by his wife, Bernadette Adams, who barely missed a day’s care in almost four decades. A sure testament to true love, she remained devoted to him until his death on Monday, which saw an outpouring of grief across France.
“…It’s worth keeping him [alive] because we don’t know what is going to happen. Perhaps one day he will come out of the coma, I hope,” Bernadette told CNN in a video interview 6 years ago, describing how she persistently rejected the idea of euthanasia when people suggested it to her for Jean-Pierre.

The Dakar-born defender rose from humble beginnings in the French-speaking African nation Senegal to win 22 caps for France’s national team in the 1970s. He played for French football club Nimes from 1970-1973 and for PSG from 1977-79 after joining from Nice football club.  He was regularly paired with French legend Marius Trésor between 1972-76, and the two formed the infamous central defence partnership ‘The Black Guard’, after a strong joint display to shut out an impressive Polish side.

“Adams and Trésor have formed one of the best central defensive pairings in all of Europe,” no other than German World Cup winner Franz Beckenbauer told French football magazine “Onze” at the time.
In his two years with Paris Saint-Germain, he made 42 appearances and scored twice, helping him cement his name as one of the most important players in the French club’s first ten years of existence. His sporting prowess won praise from international team-mates, including the likes of iconic midfielder Henri Michel, who described Adams as “a ‘force of nature, very strong, full of good will and determination” to Paris United.

A knee problem suffered on a coaching course led Adams to have the operation on a ruptured ligament in his knee. He checked into the Édouard Herriot Hospital in Lyon in 1982 for a routine surgery and expected to leave the hospital in the following days.

“It’s all fine, I’m in great shape,” he reportedly told his wife on the morning of the operation.
However, a near fatal dose of anaesthetic was administered in a devastating error ahead of the operation. The healthy athlete suffered a bronchospasm, which starved his brain of oxygen, causing catastrophic brain damage.

By the time he left hospital, Jean-Pierre would never walk, talk or move any of his limbs again.
Although he was unable to communicate or express emotion, he was still able to feel, breathe, eat and cough without the aid of medical assistance and lived at home near Nimes in Southern France until his death on Monday.

Jean-Pierre, Bernadette and their son Laurent

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

His wife Bernadette Adams said in 2007: “Jean-Pierre feels, smells, hears, jumps when a dog barks. But he cannot see.”

In 2016, Bernadette spoke to CNN about the horrific accident. She said: “The female anaesthetist was looking after eight patients, one after the other, like an assembly line. Jean-Pierre was supervised by a trainee, who was repeating a year, who later admitted in court: ‘I was not up to the task I was entrusted with’.

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

The story of Jean-Pierre Adams may be deeply tragic and shocking, but it is a tale that also serves as an incredible testament to the power of unconditional love. Bernadette’s love for her husband never failed in those unimaginably difficult near-forty years, and she never once wavered in her steadfast duty towards him in her fulfilment of their marital vows, “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.”

Indeed, she fulfilled her promise to love and cherish him and to be faithful to him, for as long as he lived — dressing, feeding and bathing him, turning him over in bed so he was comfortable, and often sacrificing her own sleep to ensure he got his.

A moving indication of their bond, in a 2016 interview, she said that Jean-Pierre noticed her absence on the rare occasions she spent a night away from home; his mood would change when she was not there, his carers would report.

“He senses that it is not me feeding him and looking after him. It’s the nurses who tell me, saying he is not the same. I think he feels things. He must recognize the sound of my voice as well,” his wife of 57 years told CNN.

Jean-Pierre and Bernadette have two sons, Laurent and Frédéric, who were eleven and four respectively at the time of the accident, and they were also proud grandparents. Speaking of the family love her husband received through his life, she said in 2016: “No one ever forgets to give Jean-Pierre presents, whether it’s his birthday, Christmas or Father’s Day.”

French-born Bernadette has previously spoken of the difficulties the couple initially faced being mixed-race in General de Gauelle’s 1960s government.

“I can’t hide the fact that it was very difficult for my family at the beginning,” Bernadette recalls. “I wrote to my parents giving the news, the wedding date and an invitation, and my mother invited us to dinner.

“After that, everything was fine and he was seen in a better light than me: ‘Jean-Pierre, Jean-Pierre’ — they only spoke of Jean-Pierre!” she once laughed.

After 15 months spent in hospital after the disastrous accident, local authorities suggested to Bernadette that the best place for her husband would be a nearby home for the sick and 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,” she said several years ago.

Her daily routine until her beloved husband’s death consisted of a seven o’clock morning rise, breakfast, followed by round-the-clock care, including shaving, preparing and serving blended food, changing clothes, and helping Jean-Pierre with tasks like going to the toilet.

Asked if she would ever consider euthanasia, she was adamant that her role was to preserve Jean-Pierre’s life and his dignity. She did not want to put an end to him.

“What do you want me to do — deprive him of food? Let him die little by little? No, no, no,” she railed in a CNN interview in 2014. Back in 1982, she admitted she was terrified she would be asked to agree to switch off the life support machine Jean-Pierre was initially on after the accident. Keeping Jean-Pierre alive was not easy, and she has previously spoken about how arduous the process to do so was. His full-time carer, she only received an annuity to do so after a decade-long legal battle.

“The process lasted nearly 12 years. I think it’s designed to discourage people. If I hadn’t had the support of football, I would have been completely broke,” she once said. Knowing that Bernadette had been plunged into financial and psychological difficulty, the French league, football federation and the Variety Club of France 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 took five more years to decide on a settlement. In the mid 1990s when the case reached court, both the anaesthetist and trainee were given what would seem to be relatively light punishments:  a one-month suspended sentence and a fine that would be equal to 750 euros today.

The lasting inner ramifications were likely much more serious for those responsible for such a terrible and avoidable accident. Almost four decades on, one thing that is for certain is that the Adams family carried a daily cross inconceivably heavy to many of us.

What is surely most remarkable about this story is the steadfast commitment and pure sacrificial love of the French footballer’s wife and family, who persistently rejected euthanasia, instead choosing to care for, protect and love Jean-Pierre until the very end — they upheld his human dignity without counting the cost, and for that, they can hold their heads high.

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