Imagine being unable to move, but your mind remained perfectly healthy yet you had no way to communicate. How would you survive and endure?
That, in essence, was the predicament of Martin Pistorius, who fell into a mysterious coma as a young boy. In a special NPR
report on Pistorius,
he says his mind functioned perfectly after falling into a coma, yet he could not move or speak — for 12 years.
In the late '80s, Pistorius came down with a strange illness at age 12— possibly cryptococcal meningitis — and lost the ability to move, speak, or even make eye contact.
Doctors eventually told his parents, Rodney and Joan Pistorius, he was essentially in a persistent vegetative state and advised them to take him home and keep him comfortable until he died.
But he didn't die. For 12 long years.
"Martin just kept going, just kept going," his mother tells NPR, confiding that she remembers looking at Martin one day and saying: " 'I hope you die.' I know that's a horrible thing to say. I just wanted some sort of relief."
She didn't think her son could hear her words. But, in fact, he did.
"Yes, I was there, not from the very beginning, but about two years into my vegetative state, I began to wake up," says Martin, now age 39 and living in Harlow, England.
He thinks he began to wake up when he was 14 or 15 years old. "I was aware of everything, just like any normal person," Martin says.
But although he could see and understand everything, he couldn't move his body.
"Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn't notice when I began to be present again," he says. "The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that — totally alone."
Over time, Martin began to regain his ability to move, and speak. Today he believes his recovery inexplicable neurological developments and a painstaking battle to prove that he existed.
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