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."
Kathryn called the doctor her angel.
Yet, as he watched the family grapple with Edwarda's condition and her father die under the weight of it all, the doctor worried that he might've done the wrong thing by saving her.
"I felt that it was very futile," Chaykin says. "That was early on."
His views, though, changed with time. "I became so impressed by the dedication and the love that this mother had. As I grew older, I thought that, perhaps, God had a better reason for me allowing Edwarda to survive, albeit in a comatose state."
He remembers watching hundreds, if not thousands, of people visit Edwarda's bedside because they believed "there were certain miracles that would happen if they came and visited Edwarda and touched her."
"There were different things that happened that I could not explain as a doctor," he says.
He wondered: Was it coincidence or something more?
'A mystery of faith'
No one remembers exactly when the first of the perceived miracles happened. Most everyone from those early days has died. But whatever the cause -- a mother's devotion, visions of Mother Mary -- word spread, and people ranging from sick children to missionaries on healing trips flocked to the home.
Joi Mejia brought both of her young daughters, around 6 and 8 years old, to the home. They suffered from cystic fibrosis.
"I was willing to do anything and try anything," she says.
Kathryn O'Bara had been Mejia's kindergarten teacher. She had heard of Edwarda's healing powers and felt the urge to visit -- the start of a friendship that lasted until Kathryn died.
"The feeling of peace and love in the room was so profound," she says.
In the months that followed, doctors told Mejia her daughters no longer suffered from cystic fibrosis, something the mother chalks up to the miracle of Edwarda. Touched by what happened, Mejia helped Kathryn tend to Edwarda for years.
"There were many miracles that came," Mejia says. "We don't always get a perfect package but we always get a perfect soul."
A woman from South America once visited. Chaykin said she'd been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, traveled to Massachusetts for a second opinion and stopped at the O'Baras' while flying back home. She prayed at Edwarda's bedside.
"About six or nine months later, a truck pulled up with new furniture for the whole downstairs with a note saying, 'I just got back from my doctor and the tumor I had is gone,'" Chaykin says.
"Those things happened all the time."
Adds Mejia, "That was the freaky part. People came from everywhere. Why would it draw them? ... It's a mystery of faith."
A devout Catholic, Kathryn told people that caring for her daughter was a blessing from God.
Yet she could also muster a joke about its physical toll. "If I could turn myself in and get some new parts, I'd be all right," she once told the Miami News.
The family fell into mountains of debt. Joe began painting homes and fixing motor boat engines for extra cash to supplement his teaching income. But the pain -- both financial and emotional -- was too much for the Navy tough guy, who died in 1976.
"No question that it contributed to the father's death," says Chaykin.
Colleen gave up her dream of college to help her family pay their debts.
Already shattered by her sister's condition, Colleen's pain deepened with the death of her father.
She wondered: What type of cruel God would torture a family so?
The power of two words
Mom never lost faith.
She rarely left her daughter's side, let alone the house. On Mother's Day in 1982, Kathryn had a heart attack as she watched Edwarda sleep. She was hospitalized for 10 days, the first time she'd been away from Edwarda overnight in 12 years of caring for her.
Among those who covered the story was Miami Herald columnist Charles Whited. He first met the family in the years after she fell into the coma. He'd write a column around the holidays of a mother who refused to give up on her daughter.