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From Coma to Consciousness: Martin Pistorius's Remarkable Journey

From Coma to Consciousness: Martin Pistorius's Remarkable Journey
From Coma to Consciousness: Martin Pistorius's Remarkable Journey

Martin Pistorius, now 47, spent 13 years in a coma before waking up and telling his remarkable story.

At 12, Martin came home from school with a sore throat, which was initially assumed to be the flu. However, his condition worsened, and he was hospitalized.

Martin was diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis and tuberculosis of the brain and treated for both. His body weakened, and he lost the ability to speak and control his movements.

His parents were told there was nothing that could be done, but they decided to keep him alive in a care centre. Martin would spend the day there and return home every night. He describes that period of his life as being like "an empty shell, unaware of anything around me."

A breakthrough came when Martin was 16. He could hear, see, and understand everything around him but had no power or control over anything.

"For me, that feeling of complete and utter powerlessness is probably the worst feeling I have ever experienced, and I hope I never have to experience again. It is like you don't exist, every single thing in your life is decided by someone else."

At the time, nobody realized that Martin was conscious, assuming he was still in a coma.

To stay sane, Martin used his imagination, imagining himself as small and flying away in a spaceship or his wheelchair transforming into a flying vehicle.

In 2001, Martin's parents took him to the Centre For Augmentative and Alternative Communication at the University Of Pretoria. There, a researcher asked him to locate a ball with his eyes on a sheet of paper with symbols. After finding the ball, he was asked to find the dog.

His parents invested in a computer preloaded with communication software. Martin could select letters, words, or symbols on the device using a band attached to his head, which would act like a mouse.

He went to work with Virna in 2003 at the centre, which gave him a sense of purpose and pride. That work led him to getting a paid position at Centre For Augmentative and Alternative Communication, before graduating from a South African university.

A few years later, Martin met the love of his life, Joanna, a South African social worker living in Britain. They had a son, Sebastian Albert Pistorius, in 2018.

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