Like so many girls, Edwarda and Colleen loved horses. At a nearby ranch, the sisters' friendship grew. "Colleen had horses, and Edwarda had a pony because she was always the cautious one," says Burdgick.
Edwarda did the hard work around the stables, allowing her younger sister a lot more time to ride the horses. "My sister would clean the stalls, brush the horses, let me have all the fun, and she would do all the work."
"That's what she wanted to do for me. She's the most giving sister that anybody could possibly have had," Colleen recalls. "She was my best friend in the whole wide world."
Edwarda was diagnosed with diabetes in late 1969. She was prescribed an oral insulin medication -- a medicine that is no longer given to adolescents due to harmful side effects.
Her diabetes didn't hinder her studies. A junior in high school, she got straight A's. Edwarda had been accepted to the University of Notre Dame, at a time when the school was mostly male. She hoped to become a pediatrician.
The family looked forward to Christmas that year. But during the break, Edwarda fell ill with the flu.
"She was sick and throwing up and stuff," Colleen says.
If Edwarda had been given insulin shots, her bad bout with the flu likely would have been just that, nothing more. But every time she vomited, she was throwing up her medicine -- and sugar was building up in her system.
By the time anyone realized what was happening, her health had deteriorated.
Joe O'Bara had just returned from a fishing outing when he went into his daughter's room. The skin on her legs had sugar lumps under them, like Charley horses. They were all over.
"My sister was screaming. I remember it like it was yesterday," Colleen says. "My dad started rubbing her legs to try to get the sugar to flow in her legs. He picked her up, and we just rushed her to the hospital."
It was January 3, 1970, when Edwarda arrived at North Miami General Hospital around 2 a.m. -- Joe and Kaye's 22nd wedding anniversary.
Dr. Louis Chaykin, who was on call that night to treat another patient, remembers seeing Edwarda and her mother in the emergency room. Daughter and mother were holding hands.
"I remember the words the daughter told the mother when she was lying in the emergency room: 'Don't ever leave me,'" the doctor says. "And the mother said she never would."
Soon, her lungs collapsed. Her kidneys failed. Her heart faltered, causing a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Chaykin was 35 then. A nurse suggested Edwarda's mother ask him to care for her daughter. He was an endocrinologist with specialized skills.
"When I saw her, she was almost near death. It was a Sunday. We worked on her for hours," he says. "We got her into intensive care, and we were able to reverse a lot of the metabolic abnormalities, but the damage that was done to the brain appeared to be permanent.
"She was in a comatose state. She would respond to pain, but that was it."
Colleen, then 15, continued her life at school, thinking her sister would eventually be OK. "I didn't realize how bad it really was," she recalls. "You see, my sister wasn't on any machines or anything. She just didn't wake up and speak."
For five months, Edwarda was treated at the hospital. The family refused to put her in a nursing home. Medicaid would have paid for those expenses, but mom had made a promise. And so they brought Edwarda home.
"To my parents, if you promised somebody something," Colleen says, "you never broke a promise."
The parents' bedroom in the family's humble bungalow was transformed into a round-the-clock care center, with Kathryn serving as chief nurse. She set up a folding chair next to Edwarda's bed. It was eventually replaced with a brown velvet recliner. Every two hours, she fed her daughter baby formula through her feeding tube. She had more than a dozen alarm clocks. They went off at midnight, 2, 4, 6 in the morning. Angel figurines and family photos adorned the room.
Mom gave insulin shots, turned her daughter so bedsores wouldn't grow, changed her diaper. Mom's back grew hunched from slouching over. She got arthritis. Sleep came in 75-minute power naps.
Chaykin pledged to treat Edwarda for free. He set up an IV for fluids and the feeding tube through her stomach.
"It's not a big deal," says Chaykin, 77. "Recognizing the cost of just maintaining Edwarda, it was a non-starter. I wouldn't accept any money."