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Man who spent 13 years in a coma woke up to tell incredible story

Man who spent 13 years in a coma woke up to tell incredible story

Martin Pistorius spent years of his life locked in a coma

A man spent 13 years 'locked' in a coma before he finally woke to tell a remarkable story.

Martin Pistorius, now 47, came home from school one day at the age of 12, suffering from a sore throat.

At the time, it was assumed he had the flu, but his condition became increasingly worse and he was hospitalised.

Martin was locked in a coma for 13 years (Supplied)
Martin was locked in a coma for 13 years (Supplied)

“I tested positive for cryptococcal meningitis and tuberculosis of the brain and was treated for both,” he told LADbible.

“My body weakened and I lost the ability to speak and control my movements.”

Martin's parents, Joan and Rodney, were told there was nothing that could be done, but they decided to keep him alive in a care centre.

He would spend the day there and return home every night. In his book, Ghost Boy, he describes that period of his life as being like 'an empty shell, unaware of anything around me'.

But four years later, there was a breakthrough.

"I remember around my 16th birthday people talking about the stubble on my chin and wondering whether to shave me," he said.

"It scared and confused me to listen to what was being said because, although I had no memories or sense of a past, I was sure I was a child and the voices were speaking about a soon-to-be man.

"I was able to hear, see and understand everything around me but I had absolutely no power or control over anything.

"For me, that feeling of complete and utter powerlessness is probably the worst feeling I have ever experienced, and I hope I never have to experience again. It is like you don't exist, every single thing in your life is decided by someone else.

"Everything, from what you wear, to what you eat and drink, even if you eat or drink, to where you will be tomorrow, or next week, and there is nothing you can do about it."

A breakthrough came when he was 16 (Supplied)
A breakthrough came when he was 16 (Supplied)

At the time, nobody realised that Martin was conscious, assuming he was still in a coma.

In order to stay sane, Martin revealed how he used his imagination.

"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," he said.

"I would sometimes watch things move, whether it be how sunlight moved throughout the day. Or watching insects of some sort scurry about, but, really, I lived in my mind to the point where at times I was oblivious to the world around me."

In 2001, everything changed. Pistorius was 25 when a relief carer at the day centre, Virna van der Walt, encouraged his parents to take him to the Centre For Augmentative and Alternative Communication at the University Of Pretoria.

It was there that a researcher held up a sheet of paper with symbols on it, and he was asked to locate a ball with his eyes. After finding the shape, he was asked to find the dog.

His parents invested in a computer, which was preloaded with communication software. Martin would select letters, words or symbols on the device using a band attached to his head, which would act like a mouse.

He went to work with Virna in 2003 at the centre, which gave him a sense of purpose and pride. That work led him to getting a paid position at Centre For Augmentative and Alternative Communication, before graduating from a South African university.

Martin is now married to Joanna (Supplied)
Martin is now married to Joanna (Supplied)

A few years later, Martin met the love of his life, Joanna. She was a South African social worker living in Britain who had become friends with Martin's sister.

"Over the years I have been blessed with many people who have had a real impact on my life," he said.

"Joanna is one of those. I spent so many years thinking, wishing and hoping that I would find someone to share my life with. But I never thought I ever would.

"I remember one time while driving with my dad looking out the car window and thinking, I have so much love inside of me and nobody to give it to.

"But thankfully Joanna and I met. The moment we met, I think deep down I just knew, she was the one."

They couple welcomed a son, Sebastian Albert Pistorius, in 2018.

Featured Image Credit: Courtesy of Martin Pistorious via Harper Collins

Topics: Health, Science, Books