When he was 12 years old, doctors diagnosed Martin Pistorius with Cryptococci Meningitis. Meningitis involves the inflammation of the meninges which covers the brain and spinal cord. This particular form is caused by Cryptococcus neoformans a fungus found in bird droppings in the soil.
Untreated, it can lead to brain damage, coma and ultimately death. The unfortunate part is that the symptoms initially develop very slowly, making it difficult to detect.
Shortly after diagnosis, Martin stopped speaking and moving and entered a vegetative state. The doctors told his parents, Rodney and Joan Pistorius, there was nothing that could be done. Martin was sent home with the expectation he would soon die.
His parents dutifully cared for him. But Martin refused to die. For the next 12 years, his parents looked after him — feeding him, bathing him, turning him over at night to prevent bed sores, dropping him off at a special care centre in the morning.
In an interview with NPR, Joan said she became so frustrated by their life she told her son “I hope you die.”
But what she didn’t know is that two years after he was sent home, Martin started waking from his coma. He was about 14 or 15 at the time. He was aware of everything that was happening, but being paralyzed could do nothing to respond. He even heard his mother utter those words.
Martin was trapped in his own body. No one knew he was actually alive inside.
When his parents dropped off at the care center, they stuck him in front of a TV, where he watched the same reruns of Barney again and again for years. Martin said he absolutely hates Barney, to this day.
He said his biggest struggle was not falling into a state of hopelessness. The only thing he could do was ignore his own thoughts of gloom.
He kept trying to do something to prove he was still alive and to his parents shock eventually did. He is still confined to a wheel-chair and learned how to speak using a computer. Today, aged 39, Martin is married and lives in Harlow, England. He is a college graduate and now owns a web design company.
Martin has also written a book about his experience entitled, “Ghost Boy: My escape from a life locked inside my own body.”
There is not the first case of a person declared dead coming back to life. In 2008, Zach Dunlop, 21, heard his doctors and mother discussing using his body parts for transplants. However, just before he was sent into the operating room for organ harvesting, a friend jabbed Zach’s foot with a pocket knife.
- Trapped In His Body For 12 Years, A Man Breaks Free: NPR
- ‘I cannot express how much I hated Barney’: Man spent 12 years trapped in a coma watching endless reruns of Barney until his mind ‘switched on‘: Daily Mail