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Man Awakes from 12-Year Vegetative State, Says 'I Was Aware of Everything'

Carrie Dedrick | Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Man Awakes from 12-Year Vegetative State, Says 'I Was Aware of Everything'

A South African boy who broke out of a 12-year-long vegetative state is now a business owner, author and husband.

In 1988, at age 12, Martin Pistorius wouldn’t wake up unless somebody woke him and when he was awake, he spent his days lying down. He was diagnosed with Crptococci Meningitis, and his condition eventually worsened.

Pistorius was eventually unable to move or to speak. Doctors estimated he didn’t have long to live.

"I hope you die," Joan Pistorius recalled telling her son. "I know that is a terrible thing to say. I just wanted some sort of relief."

Remarkably, Pistorius began waking up from the vegetative state and was able to process things going on around him, though he was unable to communicate with his family or doctors. 

In his book Ghost Boy: My Escape from a Life Locked Inside My Own Body, Pistorius writes, "My mind was trapped inside a useless body, my arms and legs weren’t mine to control and my voice was mute. I couldn’t make a sign or sounds to let anyone know I’d become aware again."

After 12 years, Pistorius began to regain upper body strength and learned to read and to write. He never regained his voice, but uses a voice program powered through a laptop to speak.

In 2003, Pistorius landed a job with a government health care office, but he quit the job to attend college and study computer science.

"I wanted to prove I could do more than just speak words via a laptop," Pistorius said.

Then in 2009, Pistorius married his sister’s friend Joanna. 

"He is in a wheelchair and doesn't speak. But I love this guy," Joanna said. "He is amazing and it just so quickly turned into love."

Said Pistorius: "It was she who has taught me to understand the true meaning of the Bible passage we were having read at the service: 'There are three things that will endure — faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these things is love.'"

Publication date: January 14, 2015