Martin Pistorius may now be known as ‘the Ghost Boy’, but he was born a normal child. Martin was a happy boy who was curious and always looking for adventure. Until one day, when he was only 12, tragedy struck and his life changed forever. The Pistorius family went from a joyous one to a family that knows pain and heartache. They used to be completely normal, and they never expected a sore throat to steal their son’s life away. Seemingly overnight, this boy went from laughing and running around to being in a virtual coma and facing unbelievable obstacles.
Click Next below to find out how Martin became an inspiration and the embodiment of the human will to live.
An Unfortunate Fate
Martin and his family are from South Africa and were as happy as they could be. He was the eldest child, and they all had a normal daily life. The children were well-behaved and had hobbies and interests like any other kids. He had a Bonsai tree that he took very good care of. He went to school and things were as they should be.
Fate Had Other Ideas
Sadly, fate had other intentions. Martin came home from school one day and had a slightly sore throat. It seemed like something that he would recover from in a few days. Unfortunately, it was the start of a sequence of events that turned the Pistorius family’s life upside down.
In the months that followed, Martin was unable to eat. He would sleep for hours on end and found it painful to walk. His muscles grew weaker with each passing day, as well. Then, one morning he woke up and couldn’t muster up the strength to move his feet or hands. His body and mind seemed to just stop functioning properly.
He Couldn’t Remember Himself
Martin’s memory deteriorated, and he started to forget things. Eventually, he could no longer even remember faces – his family became strangers. The youngster was unresponsive and entering a life that he would have to endure for years, much longer than any person ever should.
Turning Into Ghost Boy
Martin had what is referred to as a virtual coma. His parents were worried and frustrated – doctors did not know what was causing the coma. They administered treatments for tuberculosis and cryptococcal meningitis in the hopes of finding a cure. Sadly, none of it was successful, and Martin’s state remained the same.
The medication that was administered to him did not make any changes, either, and his affliction was a mystery. Doctors were forced to admit that they didn’t know how to help him. After a year of varying diagnoses, they had run out of options.
Loss of Hope
Joan and Rodney, Martin’s parents, were given advice – put him in an institution and wait for his eventual death. It was expected that his mysterious disease would eat his life away. By now, it had been two years, and no one knew what was happening to Martin or why.
Putting him in a daycare center seemed to be the only and best route to take. Martin himself had accepted the dark world that became his life. He was unaware of what was going on and spent years being what we now call the Ghost Boy.
Spark of Life
Things seemed set in stone – Martin would die a tragic and unfair death. However, one day, he started coming back. Very slowly, at the age of 16, Martin started to show signs of being aware of his surroundings.
He didn’t know what was happening, where he was, or even who he was. He looked down at his body and did not recognize it. His body would sometimes move, but these were involuntary movements that he had no control over.
A Marked Improvement
Martin’s limbs were heavy, and he could not move them no matter how hard he tried. For the next few years, it seemed there would be no improvement in the young man’s health. He was 19 by now.
However, he started to become more aware of the days. He still struggled with his memory, but he did remember who he was. It was also during this time that he knew his life would never be ‘normal’ again.
He Was Still Unhappy
Martin felt like he was stuck in a dark, lonely tomb. He was aware of the people and environment around him. However, he could not interact with anything or anyone. He could only watch people as they moved around him, unable to reach out and get their attention.
This frustration of being trapped in his own body was growing more intense as time went by. For Martin, it was like sitting by a window, watching the world pass him by as his mind kept him chained and powerless.
Martin Could Not Reach Out
He would try to talk, shout, or scream, but to no avail. There was no way for him to show his parents that he knew they were with him. His mind was active, but his mouth just wouldn’t open.
Rodney was very dedicated to taking care of Martin and would spend the most time with him. Martin wanted to yell out to his dad that he was there whenever it was time to feed or dress him. Despite the willingness of his spirit, his body was too weak to cooperate.
A Mother’s Pain
Joan found it particularly difficult to see her son in such a helpless state. She couldn’t bear it any longer. That is why one day, while spending time with him, she told Martin that he has to die.
Living the way he was living was not a life anyone should have. Martin was able to understand why his own mother would wish him dead, even though he had done the same at times. He forgave her for giving up on him and for being too weak to try and hold on to just a faint sparkle of hope.
She Was Deeply Hurt
Convinced that her son would never recover, Joan felt that she had failed him, and the guilt was gnawing away at her.
She went into deep despair and walked a difficult road that led to a decision motivated by pain and sorrow. Joan attempted suicide. Once again, though, fate had different plans, and the unhappy mother survived after being rushed to the hospital.
Joan Didn’t Die
Doctors saved her life, and she was able to fully recover. After that, she decided to become more involved in taking care of Martin. It was as if she wanted to make sure that although her son might die in his current state, she wanted to make his last days good.
Seeing the hope in his mother, Martin started to try even harder to reach out. Eventually, he regained some control of his neck. He could lift his head and even give small smiles.
It Made A Difference
After this, the tiny movements that Martin could make were big steps for him. He was able to show his family that he was still there, fighting to get his life back. He had hope that, if they realized that he was trying to reach out, they would find a way to communicate with each other. He hated that they saw him as a ‘pot plant’ and not a human who was craving interaction.
Slow But Steady Improvements
Martin was attending aromatherapy massages with Virna van der Walt, who hoped it would help him improve. She read his small smiles and little movements and found it as a way to communicate with him.
During one of the sessions, Martin managed to tell Virna about his brother being sick from bronchitis. This was a wonderful breakthrough, and he realized he might be able to walk away from his world of silence. For many days, he would replay the moment in his head, and he looked forward to the next session.
Hope on the Horizon
In 2001, when Martin was 25, he was taken to the Centre For Augmentative And Alternative Communication. He had some tests done at the University of Pretoria, where the centre was located.
Martin was asked to look at different objects on a screen, and this led to a realization by the doctors. They discovered that they would be able to find a way for him to communicate with his family. His parents were told to buy a computer with special communication software installed.
Martin was finally given a voice, although it wasn’t his real one. He could communicate by selecting symbols with a switch. He built his own vocabulary, and the combinations of symbols he used were quickly growing. He was able to express himself after many years of being silent.
Everyone was surprised by how quickly Martin was able to understand the software’s instructions. Joan was helping him and always tried hard to find the words her son was looking for.
Even More Improvement
A new device was eventually introduced to Martin that enabled him to have an audible voice. It was coming from a computer and may have sounded odd, but it was a big improvement. Martin chose a voice that wasn’t very high-pitched and that would suit him best.
He could control the device by moving his head. The switches he was using enabled him to choose the words he needed. Whenever he clicked on the symbol for ‘speak’, the electronic voice would say the words and sentences he chose. It was his amazing adaptation to computers that opened the next door in Martin’s life.
It was thought to be impossible, but Martin was able to find employment. Rodney suggested that he use his knowledge of computers to help out at the local Health Center. In 2003, he started working with Virna, who had a hand in his journey to recovery.
Whenever he wasn’t working, Martin would practice on the computer to improve his skills. His talent for computers gave him a new level of confidence, and this affected his body. The muscles in his neck became much stronger, and he was able to use his right hand more reliably.
A Chance Meeting
Martin was a unique case, and as such, he drew a lot of attention from experts in the medical field. Doctors and professionals were amazed by his disease and recovery.
His determined spirit was also a topic of interest – this young man refused to just wither away. On one fateful day, a group of nursing students visited the care home where Martin lived. They wanted to examine his case and learn what they could.
Then It Happened
He was lying on his bed when the group entered his room, and he looked up to see a woman with brown hair and lovely eyes. He fell in love immediately. This nurse’s name was Joanna, and she was a social worker living in Britain. The two started emailing each other and got to know one another better.
A few weeks later, Joanna sent an invitation to Martin – she wanted him to visit her in Britain. Martin could hardly believe his luck. He didn’t think he would ever meet someone like her.
A Big Moment
Martin went to Britain and confessed his love to the nurse who stole his heart so unexpectedly. She told him that she felt the same, and Martin’s heart nearly exploded with happiness.
The two became inseparable and couldn’t bear the thought of being apart. Martin knew he had found someone special and that Joanna accepted him the way he was. He moved to Britain to live with his love and even managed to find a job as a web designer.
Love Heals All
His health improved, and he became even stronger as time went by. He even helped out around the house. In 2009, the happy couple tied the knot, and Martin still sees it as the greatest moment of his life. Joanna taught him many things, but there is one that stands out. Three things in life will always endure – faith, hope, and love.
He Is A Survivor
Martin has experienced bad times and good times and knows all too well that faith, hope, and love can make a difference in how things end. Now, he is a successful web designer and author. He penned the book The Ghost Boy to tell his story. Martin also gives inspiring TED talks and shows the world that humans can be exceptional.
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