Man awakens after 12 years in coma, says he was aware of ‘everything’ (VIDEO)

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SOUTH AFRICA — In the late 1980s, when he was 12-years old, Martin Pistorius fell into a coma where he remained in a vegetative state for 12 years.

Doctors in South Africa were not sure what caused his illness, but suspect it was cryptococcal meningitis.His condition grew worse and eventually he lost all ability to move and speak and make eye contact with his family.

Physicians said he would die, but his family proceeded with a routine. Every morning his father would get up at 5 a.m., dress Martin and take him to the care center. At the end of the day, he’d give him a bath, feed him dinner and put him to bed.

His parents set an alarm to go off every two hours to turn Martin’s body so he wouldn’t get bed sores.

It was their life for 12 years.

Today, Martin is able to talk again. He uses a computer to speak and is mobile with a wheelchair. His awareness has fully returned.

ghostIn his book, “Ghost Boy: My Escape From A Life Locked Inside My Own Body“, Martin tells what he remembers from those 12 years. He says he thinks he began to wake up about two years into his coma.

He remembers many things from that time, when everyone around him thought he couldn’t hear them and thought he didn’t know what was going on.

“Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again,” he told National Public Radio.

Stuck in his body, without the ability to move or communicate, he felt doomed.

It was especially bad when the care center would sit patients in front of the television all day, to “watch” children’s shows.

“I cannot even express to you how much I hated Barney,” Martin said.

Sadly, Martin also heard his mother tell him, “I hope you die.”

Joan Pistorious feels guilty about this but Martin understands it came from her own desperation and sadness for his bleak existence.

Listen to NPR’s report on Martin Pistorius, excerpts from his book, and their conversation with his parents Joan and Rodney Pistorius.

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    • Lyz207

      Said out of “love”? Man, you’re dense. She said it out of desperation and selfishness. Do the world a favor and do not reproduce. I could NEVER say that to my child–Ever! Ugh! Such a ridiculous comment.

          • Meep

            Yes, actually. Not for 12 years but I did have a loved one in a coma for a long time. They didn’t pull through in the end, but along the way you do find yourself hoping they pass on, let their body rest and let everyone else around them start grieving and find closure. It may sound horrible but when the doctors tell you they won’t pull through, they are usually right and you just feel like you are wishing and dreaming and pro-longing an inevitable outcome. I had to quit my job, lost my house and eventually my partner, and hated myself for thinking that way, but I totally see where the mother is coming from.

        • lizajane32

          As a mother.. And someone who has sat bedside while her own mother was in ICU in a vegetative state numerous times… All but one last more than a week

          I can say I have felt this. And it sucks. For the past 16 yrs my mom has fought for her life. Each coma, each airlift… “Is this it?”.
          I’ve had that thought. “Just go”.
          She is worse and worse each time she comes out of it. I used to be of the mindset ” let the robots keep me living”. Until I kept seeing Mom that way. And that’s not a way I want my children to ever see me.

      • HC129

        She could have also meant that she didn’t want her son to go on suffering for so long. Mothers usually want their children to live a full and happy life, not to have to see their child endure a prolonged vegetative state that they don’t even know they’re is going to come out of. 12 years is a long time to keep holding on; I personally don’t blame her for slipping on her words on an occasion, having to see her child in that condition for that long. And they routinely changed his positions every 2 hrs so he would not get bedsores? I don’t know about anyone else, but man does that sound to me like a lot of love and dedication.

    • Heather

      I completely understand what you are saying. It would be hell to watch your child be alive but not “there”. Wishing them to be able to pass on is not necessarily a selfish comment.

    • DocBoots

      I’m a physician currently working in Miami and I’d like to try and clarify some things. A coma and persistent vegetative state (PVS) are usually differentiated by the level of wakefulness and awareness. People with comas are usually neither awake nor aware, whereas a person who is in a PVS is awake, but more than often not aware of what is going on. If they undergo a recovery phase and become aware, they usually gain cognitive/mental function before they gain motor function, which makes sense in this case why he knew what was happening. But in all honesty, this usually does not happen.

      As for the mother hoping he would die, I have cared for many patients whose families have had to struggle with that decision. In the majority of cases I have seen, people in comas or PVS will usually not improve, and they end up being resuscitated when they eventually code and get even more brain injury due to lack of oxygen. My own grandmother was a case of this; severe subdural hematoma (bleed in her brain), in a coma, and we had to make the decision whether or not we would keep her on ventilator to keep her “alive.” Judging someone for wishing that their loved one was no longer suffering is pretty ignorant, especially if you haven’t been in that situation before.

      • Dan Blair

        Thank you for the information DOCBOOTS. It makes sence to me now, for what I went through. I have wondered a long time about the three months I spent in my “coma”, and the recollections that I have of that time.

      • dw232300

        DOCBOOTS, maybe you can shed some light for me…. My Mother has been in a coma for 2 1/2 yrs now. They believe she went into cardiac arrest and was deprived of oxygen for too long. The Dr’s say there is no brain stem activity, so she’s brain dead…. She does not react to any of the senses test BUT she has been breathing on her own for over 2yrs. How is that possible? Is there any hope of her possibly waking up?
        Thank You

  • Bk

    Shouldn’t be there some kind of regularmedical exam that would check if the person has the slightest movement or sense so that they dont suffer for two years to prove thier existstance?

    • NickMed

      Its hard for medical proffesionals in this position too, not just the family, because they see this time and again but there is no foolproof method to know which way it will go oncw you hit this point and as doctors, nurses and such you are trained to inform thebworst case scenario to protect your career and to prepare loved ones for the possibility. It is ridiculously hard being a medical proffesional because you want the best for your patients and their familied but often enough best case is not the most likely option. Evety patient death takes its toll on their carers as well as thr family/loved ones but when “miracles” happen trust me when I say that we are the first ones to celebrate. Its a super difficult position to be in in both cases and we do our best to be optimistic as well as realistic… I have never met someone in my time as a Doctor who knows how to react or deal with a situation like this.

  • Alison Kennedy

    The point is, it DID happen, and members of the medical community, for all your knowledge, are not God. There will always be unusual happenings that you cannot explain. Your job is to make sure do no harm based on what “usually” happens out of convenience for you, the hospital, the insurance company or the family.

  • Rob Will

    The author of this article needs to correct the title of the book to “Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body”.

  • Rob Will

    And by the way everyone, he wasn’t in a coma the whole time.
    According to his Wikipedia page he had locked-in syndrome and “eventually fell into a coma that lasted 3 years… Pistorius believes that he began regaining consciousness around age 16 (around 1992).” That’s why he was placed in front of the TV to watch children’s shows.

  • Elaine Carson

    I’m glad you were blessed to respond the way you did or have .
    Our sister has been in a coma for 15 years now , like you at 1st no response. She’s search a beautiful lady & very talented. Never been sick . All of her organs are good ! Later , after a trake was removed , she went home from the Nursing home. Her husband , bless his heart , along with 1 of my sisters takes care of her now as of 2019 . You can call or touch her & she will open her eyes but can’t focus . We feel that she can hear us ! Her husband declares she understands him & my sister does too.
    Never had a bed sore !!! She’s well taken care of .
    We communicate with her every day !!!! Keep her abreasted on everything!
    She has a beautiful home , they keep her in the best of Macy’s bed ware ! She’s treated very well ! I live in Calif , when I come home , she shead tears , but can’t speak ! We feel or know she is in prison in her body .we know she’s tried , we know she gets frustrated!
    Nevertheless, we still pray because Miracles happen every day! Her husband has been Faithful for 15 years . There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for her . I wish it were possible you could talk to her husband! Tell him about your journey during that time & now even .
    Thank you for sharing your story .

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