‘There is always hope’: Man trapped in body for 12 years explains how ordeal ended

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

A man trapped in his body for nearly 12 years is now speaking out about his experience — using a talking computer that translates what he types.

Martin Pistorius, who has lost his ability to talk, fell ill at the age of 12 to a mysterious illness that puzzled doctors where he grew up in South Africa. It got so bad, he couldn’t move, make eye contact or speak.

Doctors told his parents Martin was a vegetable.

What no one realized was that for most of the next 12 long years, Pistorius was fully conscious.

He wrote a book about his experience, “Ghost Boy,” and sat down for an interview recently with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Pistorius still can’t talk, but communicated through a computer.

He said his ordeal started with a sore throat, and his condition got worse and worse.

“My body weakened, and I lost the ability to speak and control my movements,” he told Cooper. “The doctors said to take me home and wait for me to die.”

Anderson asked how Pistorius coped with being trapped.

“Mostly through escaping into my mind,” he said. “I’d imagine all sorts of things, like being very small and climbing into a spaceship and flying away. Or that my wheelchair would magically transform into a flying vehicle ala James Bond, with rockets and missiles. I would sometimes watch things move, whether it be how sunlight moved throughout the day. Or watching insects of some sort scurry about,” he told Cooper.

One of the things he disliked the most was being placed in front of a TV for hours. He said at times, he wished for death.

Then eventually one of his nurses began to think he understood what she said to him. She had his parents get him tested, and his doctors were astonished to learn he could understand and even slowly communicate.

Pistorius said if it weren’t for the nurse, he would likely now be dead or forgotten about.

After that day, his health began to improve. Now, he is able to type words into his computer, which turns them into speech.

Pistorius has a college degree, owns his website design business and is married.

Doctors say that what happened to Pistorius is still a mystery.

He wants his story to give people hope.

“I think that there is always hope,” he told Cooper. “No matter how small. And also to treat everyone with kindness, dignity, compassion and respect, whether you think they understand or not. To never underestimate the power of the mind, the importance of love and faith and to never stop dreaming.”

Read more here.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.