The Boy Who Would Not Die

The Boy Who Would Not Die January 13, 2015
Martin’s Book:

It is easy to get caught up in the little annoyances of life, to feel sorry for ourselves when we are misunderstood, or tired, lonely, and angry. But when I am feeling down, I often find that God has a way of reminding me that I really am blessed in so many ways. So often I zero in on what is going wrong in my life, only to take for granted almost everything else. Like the fact that I am able to move. And speak…

Martin Pistorius became ill when he was twelve years old. His medical case was a mystery and he slowly began to lose his ability to move, to communicate and eventually was incorrectly diagnosed by doctors to be a vegetable, unable to understand or think. Doctors sent Martin home with his family, assuming he would pass away soon.

But Martin did not die.

His family cared for his body assuming nothing was going on in Martin’s mind. For twelve years this went on but, little did they know, Martin was actually aware of all that went on around him beginning four years after he went into a coma.

As one would expect, Martin was often overcome by negative thoughts. He wanted to escape. At one point, he even wanted to die. He dreaded his time spend in a care home, and suffered from abuse from some of his caretakers. Once, in frustration, Martin’s mother even said to him that she wished he would die.

But eventually Martin began to work with all that went on in his mind, first by detaching from the negativity, and then later by engaging with his thoughts, and by using his imagination. Then, one day, Martin slowly began to get movement back in his body. Within two years Martin was communicating through a laptop and even got a job filing papers.

Today, Martin is married and the author of a bestselling book called Ghost Boy.

– You can find a sample chapter of Martin’s book here.

– I also stumbled upon this lovely video of Martin and his wife introducing his book to a publisher.

– NPR has a great article about Martin and they also tell his story in the episode “Locked in Man” of their new show Invisibilia.

– – –

In NPR’s interview of Martin, he recounts listening to the Whitney Houston song “Greatest Love of All.” Upon hearing her sing the words, “They can’t take away my dignity,” Martin thought, “You want to bet?”

As I thought about Martin’s years alone, by himself with his thoughts it made me think of the many people who may not be in Martin’s exact situation but have lost human contact and respect:

Prisoners. The elderly. Disabled men and women.

The list could go on and on.

Martin’s story encourages me to reevaluate my own problems, which are much less serious than Martin’s, and to ask myself, “As a Christian, how am I present to people who are locked inside their bodies, their apartments, their minds, their cells?”

When was the last time you participated in a corporal work of mercy?

Feel free to share in the comments.

UPDATE: I wanted to know whether a belief in God helped Martin to get through twelve years without being able to communicate with anyone or move. I searched a lot of articles about his case and found nothing. Of course, I knew that did not necessarily mean that Martin did not have faith.

Finally, I watched the trailer for his book which makes it clear that faith did help Martin get through those years:

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