Man trapped in body for 12 years awakens, says he was ‘aware of everything’

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SOUTH AFRICA — When he was 12, Martin Pistorius fell sick to a mysterious illness that puzzled doctors where he grew up in South Africa.

NPR reports that it got worse and worse, until he eventually couldn’t move, make eye contact or talk. Doctors told his parents, Rodney and Joan, that he was a vegetable — to take him home so he could die in comfort.

But he didn’t.

For 12 years, his parents got him up in the morning, dressed him and took him to a care facility for the day. Then they took him home, gave him a bath, fed him and put him back to bed, waking up in the middle of the night to move him so he didn’t get bedsores.

Martin Pistorius (Photo Credit:
Martin Pistorius (Photo Credit:

Meanwhile, just two years after falling into the coma, Pistorius said he started to “awaken,” and while he couldn’t indicate it or communicate, he knew exactly what was going on around him.

Especially the day his mother told him “I hope you die.”

He told NPR he felt trapped inside his body watching “Barney” reruns. He thought it would be that way his entire life. He eventually decided to refuse to live that way, so he fought to control his thoughts — and was finally able to move.

Pistorius is now 39 and is married. He is in a wheelchair and communicates through a computer.

Pistorius tells his story in his book, “Ghost Boy: My escape from a life locked inside my own body.” He also spoke with NPR for it’s program, “Invisibilia.”

Read more here.

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