After Being Trapped in His Own Body For 14 Years The ‘Ghost Boy’ Found Real Joy In Life
Martin Pistorius, today also known as “The Ghost Boy”, was a happy, healthy boy that was just the same as all of his peers. He was a joyous boy, curious for discovering new things until all of the sudden symptoms of a simple sore throat changed his life forever at the age of only 12.
In a matter of seconds, everything he enjoyed doing wasn’t doable anymore. He entered in a virtual coma that left him completely paralyzed for the following years. His family was so desperate, and doctors had no clue what has happened to this unfortunate boy.
Yet, his story didn’t finish in tying him to the hospital bed for the rest of his life. Despite doctors not being able to explain his disease, and his mom giving up on him, Martin defied all laws of medicine, regained his life back and found the love of his life.
The path of this one-in-a-billion miraculous story was a really tough one, but Pistorius reached beyond anyone’s expectations despite living with limitations only a small percentage of people experience on earth. And there was an important reason that kept motivating him to regain his life back. Read on and get inspired by his difficult, but still extraordinary life.
1. A South-African Family
Martin Pistorius was a healthy boy that lived in South Africa with his younger brother and sister and parents. Pistorius family was indeed a happy one. Their children were well-behaved kids with interesting hobbies.
Martin had a little Bonsai tree that he never forgot to water. The kids went to school, and everything seemed to be just fine. At that time, Martin’s parents didn’t know that their life was going to change forever.
2. A Simple Sore Throat
It seemed like it was just another regular day when Martin came back from school and felt his throat a little sore. He didn’t know that this simple illness at the age of 12, won’t let him return to school ever again.
In the following months, Martin couldn’t eat, he started sleeping for hours and felt pain whenever he had to walk. He felt his muscles were getting weaker each day, but it wasn’t the only thing that got worse with time.
3. Life Started To Fade Away
One day he woke up and realized that he had no strength to move his hands or feet that were now only laying curled on his lap. But as his body stopped responding, his mind went idle too.
He started forgetting facts and things, and with time, he even couldn’t recognize faces. Martin was completely unresponsive and was slowly entering a life he was going to live for the following years.
4. Becoming Ghost Boy
What Martin entered was called a virtual coma. But what bothered his parents is that doctors had no idea what was causing this painful state. They tried treating him for tuberculosis and cryptococcal meningitis, but no changes ever occurred.
No medication he tried ever had an effect on his condition, and for what medicine knew Martin was a mystery and nothing could help him. After a year of different diagnosis, doctors confess that they had run out of options. For all they understood, he had a degenerative neurological disorder.
5. Waiting For Death
Martin’s parents, Joan and Rodney, were adviced to put Martin into an institution and wait until the strange illness takes Martin’s life away. At that time, he was only 14, and doctors thought putting him into the daycare center would be the best option.
Martin almost completely accepted his dark world where he was completely unaware of anything going on around him. He spent years living like “The Ghost Boy”. Until one day he started coming back to life.
6. Small Rays of Consciousness
Martin slowly started being aware of things around him at the age of 16. He had no idea what had happened to him, he didn’t understand who he was or where he was. When he looked at his body, he didn’t feel like it belonged to him.
Sometimes his body moved, but those were only involuntary movements he didn’t control. His limbs felt heavy and he couldn’t move them by any bit. This was only the beginning of what was going to happen to this boy.
7. Focus Regained
By the age of 19, Martin became aware of each day. He still forgot some things but was able to clearly recall some of the memories. Martin finally knew who he was and understood that he couldn’t live a real life.
He felt like he was stuck in a tomb. Being aware of everything around him, without being able to tell anything or to do a single move, made his life even harder than before. The frustration of no one realizing he was aware only grew with time.
8. Aware But Helpless
It was years that Martin really felt like a ghost. However much he tried to shout and scream, or give any sign that his parents could see, they never noticed him. Even though he had an active mind, he couldn’t speak. Though his parents, and especially his father, were constantly taking care of him, this condition still made him feel invisible. ‘
Whenever his dad washed, fed or dressed him, Martin wanted to scream out: “Dad! I’m here! Can’t you see?”. His dad Rodney, couldn’t see at that moment that again, something bad was about to happen which will make everyone in the family feel much worse.
9. ‘You Must Die’
Martin’s mom wasn’t as strong as his dad. At one point she said slowly to Martin with her heart tore-apart “You must die. You have to die”. She couldn’t accept that her boy that was once healthy, couldn’t move or talk, and she couldn’t forgive herself that she was not able to help him by any means.
Martin who indeed thought of letting himself go and surrendering to death at one point, gradually realized that his mom was desperate and didn’t know what else to do with her life. He learned to understand her weaknesses and forgave her. Still, he couldn’t realize that his mom could do something that will leave consequences for the rest of their lives.
10. Shocking News
While Rodney Pistorius never gave up on hoping Martin will get better one day, his mother Joan believed his condition was permanent and that having Martin at home would harm his younger siblings.
Joan couldn’t help but feel constantly that she had failed her child and woke up feeling guilty every day. Her unhappiness went to that extent that in her darkest despair, she tried to commit suicide. Luckily, a miracle saved this family once again.
11. A Wake Up Call
Rodney immediately drove his wide to the hospital as soon as he saw what she has done. Luckily, doctors saved Joan’s life and she was soon recovered and came back home. Since this episode, Joan became more involved in Martin’s care. She finally started believing that Martin will get better someday.
As his mother regained hope and faith, Martin slowly started having control of his neck which made it possible for him to smile or lift his head. These new discoveries will soon enable Martin something he couldn’t imagine even in his wildest dreams.
12. Small Movements With Deep Meaning
The tiny movements Martin was finally able to do, were seen as simple improvements by his family and doctors. But for him, these small movements had a deeper meaning. With each move he did, he wanted to let his family know that he was absolutely conscious.
He hoped that as soon as they realize that he is aware of what was happening, that they would find sooner or later a way for him to communicate. It hurt him so much that most people saw him as a “pot plant”. However, a new revelation will soon change everything Martin and his family knew so far.
13. Signs Of Understanding
Martin was going to aromatherapy massages to a lady called Virna van der Walt. She was the first to find out a way to communicate with him by reading his small movements and little smiles.
On one of the therapies, Martin even made it to tell Virna that his brother was sick from Bronchitis. That was the moment when Martin realized that he could find a way out of his silent world. He would replay this moment in his mind for days and couldn’t wait for another massage. He finally felt that he wasn’t invisible at all.
14. First Sight Of Hope
When he turned 25, in July 2001, Martin was taken to the Centre For Augmentative And Alternative Communication at the University Of Pretoria in order to have some tests done.
After being asked to look into different objects on the screen, the doctors realized they could help Martin with finding a way to communicate with his loved ones. They suggested to his parents to buy him a computer with a special communication software.
15. Developing A New Vocabulary
Though it wasn’t a real voice, Martin finally had one. He was communicating by choosing symbols with a switch and created his own vocabulary. The combinations of symbols grew fast, and he was finally able to express himself in some way.
Martin surprised everyone in how fast he was understanding the instructions of the software that was enabling him to speak. His mum was assisting him all the time and was always trying hard to find the words Martin was looking for.
16. Getting A Voice
Soon, they introduced a new device that enabled Martin to have a voice. Although it was a voice coming from a computer, he could finally speak. He picked a voice not too high that he thought would fit him best.
He controlled this device by movements of his head that, with the switches he was using, made it possible to him to choose words he was looking for. When he clicked the symbol ‘speak’, his electronic voice would say out loud whatever he picked. But Martin’s adaptation to computers will bring unpredictable things into his life soon…
17. Finding A Job
Martin achieved what seemed the most improbable thing to happen. His father suggested that he could be able to help at the Health Center with his new knowledge about computers. He started working with his caregiver Virna in 2003.
When he wasn’t working, Martin was practicing on the computer whenever he could. His new skills brought a whole new level of self-confidence to him, and soon he realized this affected his body too. His neck muscles got stronger, and his right hand became more reliable. But this wasn’t all…
18. Unexpected Visit
While Martin was starving for information and admiring the new experiences his life now offered him, he became an object of interest of many experts. They were all surprised by the fact Martin was now being able to build websites and even to graduate despite his non-functioning speech.
One day, a group of nursing students visited Martin’s care home to examine his health case. He was lying on the mattress as they came in, and when he looked up he saw a young woman with long brown hair and beautiful eyes. He fell in love crazily as soon as he laid his eyes on her.
19. Love Emails
This girl’s name was Joanna. She was a social worker who lived in Britain. The two started emailing each other, and after only a few weeks Joanna invited Martin to come to visit her in Britain. Martin couldn’t believe that he could ever meet someone so nice.
As crazy as love can be, Martin went to Britain, after admitting to her that he fell in love. When she told him she loved him too, Martin felt his heart leap. He arrived in Britain and since then they couldn’t bear being apart. He knew he met someone who accepted him and loved him for what he was.
20. Happily Ever After
Finally, Martin found the love of his life and moved to Britain to settle with Joanna. He got a job as a web designer and got stronger and stronger as time passed. He was giving his best to help Joanna with housework.
This madly in love couple got married in June 2009. And Martin today describes it as the greatest moment of his life. He says that Joanna taught him to understand the true meaning of “There are three things that will endure – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love”. He experienced all three through his life, and today he knows that indeed love is the greatest of all.
Today, Martin is a successful web designer, author of the book “The Ghost boy” and also made it be one of the inspiring speakers at TED talks.