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Man Wakes up After 12 Years in ‘Vegetative State’: Reveals He ‘Was Aware of Everything’

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Martin Pistorius spent 12 years as the "ghost boy" trapped in his own body as a "vegetable" patient, hear his remarkable story now.


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Martin Pistorius was diagnosed at the age of 12 with an inexplicable disease. The illness resulted in the loss of limb movement, eye contact and vocal diction—ultimately sending him into a completely comatose state. Rodney and Joan Pistorius his parents were told that their son, was in a “vegetable” state, and he would remain in this state until death.

But Martin would live to tell the tale. Writing his own version of the story in his memoir Ghost Boy: My Escape From A Life Locked Inside My Own Body. Martin recounts waking up internally after two years of unconsciousness.

Martin’s father recounted his daily routine as his son’s caregiver for those 12 years to NPR, stating that he would get up at 5 am, get Martin dressed, load him in the car, take him to the special care center for the day, only to return eight hours later. At which point he would “pick him up, bathe him, feed him, put him in bed, set [his] alarm for [every] two hours so that [he’d] wake up to turn [Martin] so that he didn’t get bedsores.” Martin’s mother would want her son to keep going, but at one point also hoped that he would die, which Martin did overhear her say once in his vegetative state.

“I was aware of everything, just like any normal person. Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again. The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that—totally alone. No one will ever show me tenderness. No one will ever love me,” he thought. “You are doomed.”

“You don’t really think about anything,” Martin recalled. “You simply exist. It’s a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish. My mind was trapped inside a useless body, my arms and legs weren’t mine to control and my voice was mute. I couldn’t make a sign or sounds to let anyone know I’d become aware again. I was invisible—the ghost boy” Martin recounts.

“The rest of the world felt so far away when she said those words,” he recalled, but then realized that “as time passed, I gradually learned to understand my mother’s desperation. Every time she looked at me, she could see only a cruel parody of the once-healthy child she had loved so much.”

A miracle happened and Martin soon began to heal. He used a computer to communicate at first. But was soon restored to normal functional health. What a story! Martin has gone on to marry Joanna the love of his life.