man laying on hospital bed. Coma concept
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
January 16, 2024 ·  3 min read

Man Who Spent 10+ Years in a Coma Wakes Up To Tell an Unbelievable Story

Martin Pistorius, age 49, emerged from a mysterious coma with a tale of endurance, resilience, and an eventual triumph.1 His extraordinary journey unravels the intricate challenges Pistorius and his family faced as they navigated the complex landscape of an extended vegetative state.

A Mysterious Path to His Coma

Martin Pistorius
Martin Pistorius. Image Source: Unilad

At the age of 12, Martin’s life took an unexpected turn when flu-like symptoms transformed into a debilitating illness. These new symptoms became cryptococcal meningitis (a lung and brain infection) and tuberculosis of the brain.2 Despite extensive medical efforts, they could not pinpoint a precise cause, leading to a loss of speech and movement control. Pistorius’ parents were now tasked with trying to care for their son without a clear understanding of the underlying ailments and a child who could not speak or move to communicate.3

Trapped within his own body, Pistorius describes these silent years in a coma as existing in an “empty shell,” conscious yet powerless to influence or control his surroundings. “I was able to hear, see, and understand everything around me but I had absolutely no power or control over anything,” he reflects. Unbeknownst to those around him, he absorbed the world, enduring a monotony of children’s shows to pass the time. “I cannot even express to you how much I hated Barney,” he stated in an interview. 

Things were difficult for the family as a whole, and things hit an all-time low for Martin when he heard his own mother saying she wished he was dead, not knowing her son heard her words, never mind understood. He recalls, ”the rest of the world felt so far away when she said those words.”

Read: Perspectives: Choosing to Die Before Dementia Takes Over

Rediscovering His Voice and Purpose

Martin Pistorius
Martin Pistorius. Image source: NPR | X

In 2001, a breakthrough at the Centre For Augmentative And Alternative Communication marked a turning point for Martin. Aged 25, he emerged from his coma and could now communicate his consciousness, initiating a major shift towards regaining control of his body. Empowered by technology similar to Stephen Hawking’s, he started on a new journey, eventually marrying his wife Joanna in 2009 and welcoming their son, Sebastian Albert Pistorius, in 2018.

With time, Pistorius reflects on the transformative moment, “I gradually learned to understand my mother’s desperation.” We should all be able to learn a lesson in empathy from Martin.  

Today, Martin Pistorius is a living testament to the resilient human spirit, transitioning from silent observation in a coma-like state to active participation in life. He now works as a computer scientist and web developer, symbolizing his triumph over adversity. His memoir, “Ghost Boy,” serves not only as a recollection of his journey but also as an inspiration for those grappling with their own challenges.

Martin Pistorius’ odyssey echoes the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. From the strange onset of his illness to his eventual rediscovery and zest for life, his story is a resonating source of inspiration. Individuals should look to Martin’s story to find their voices, even in the profound silence that shapes their lives.

Keep Reading: Man Wakes from 12-Year Coma After Mother, 75, Nursed Him Day and Night


  1. Man who survived more than a decade in a coma woke up to tell a remarkable story.” Unilad. Gregory Robinson. January 15, 2023.
  2. Man Awakens After 12 Years In Coma, Says He Was Aware of ‘Everything’.” WNEP. WNEP Staff. January 13, 2015.
  3. Ghost Boy’ Martin Pistorius who suffered mysterious virtual coma for 12 years describes hearing his mother tell him: ‘I hope you die’.” Independent. Adam Withnall. January 14, 2015.