When he was in a coma, Martin Pistorius heard his mother told him to just die. It broke his heart to million pieces upon hearing his mother’s words. Unfortunately, his mother was not alone. Every person in his family began to feel hopeless about him, even his own doctor. Miraculously, he survived and now he lives on to tell his survival story.
It began one day in 1987 when the 12-year-old Martin came home from school with a sore throat. The next few days, the sore throat developed into something else. He gradually lost his control of his body, stopped eating and communicating and just fell asleep constantly.
Knowing that was something wrong with their son, Martin’s parents brought him to the doctor. Unfortunately, the doctor found out that Martin had cryptococcal meningitis and brain tuberculosis which left him in a state like a baby. The doctor was even hopeless of Martin’s recovery; he told his parents to bring him to home to die because he expected that Martin would not survive.
By that time, Martin already fell into a coma
However, he did survive. Martin lived on but he had to spend his time at home and daycare centres for more than a decade. His parents were told that he was unaware of his surrounding but Martin said that he actually woke up from coma a few years after he became ill.
“For so many years, I was like a ghost. I could hear and see everything, but it was like I wasn’t there. I was invisible,” Martin told in an interview with NBC News. Even though he was awake during that time, he could not send a signal to anyone that he was alert. His body won’t just cooperate with him.
Martin and his family before he fell ill
Sometimes, he thought that he managed to move his body and eventually signalled a response. Unfortunately, what he thought was an obvious signal was actually hardly a movement and no one was able to see it.
Martin recalled that it was a terrifying time
“What really got to me was the complete and utter powerlessness. Every single aspect of your life is controlled and determined by someone else. They decided where you are, what you eat, whether you sit or lie down, in what position you lie in, everything,” he said.
He recalled being alone despite surrounded by his family members and the staffs. He felt trapped inside a dead body, unable to move and to speak.
One of the painful memories during those years is when he was positioned in front of the television and watched episode after episode of ‘Barney and Friends’ for hours.
Unlike his peers who adore the famous purple dinosaur, Martin just hates it
It reminds him of how powerless and sick he was at that time.
It was that time Martin heard his mother told him to die
“It broke my heart, in a way,” Martin said. “But at the same time, particularly as I worked through all the emotions, I felt only love and compassion for my mother. My mother often felt that she wasn’t a good mom and couldn’t take care of me. One of the hardest things for me was I couldn’t tell her that, ‘No, you are doing great.”
Luckily, his prayers to end his suffering came true in 2001. A new worker came to his care centre and realised that Martin was aware with his surrounding throughout the whole time. It was the new worker who urged his parents to send Martin to the Center for Augmentative and Alternative Communication to be evaluated. There, he managed to show to her parents that he could understand everything they have said to him.
Ever since that day, he began to recover slowly. Martin even had to relearn everything from the start but that did not stop him. Eventually, he regained control of his body and got his normal life back.
A few years later in 2008, he met his wife, Joanna who works as a social worker and the couple got married a year later in Britain and now wanted to start a family
Martin now speaks by using a voice synthesizer and moves with the help of a wheelchair. He said that he wanted to focus on the future and forget the past.
He also said he did not resent his parents, especially his mother for wanting him to die years ago
“Treat everyone with kindness, dignity, compassion and respect — irrespective of whether you think they understand or not. Never underestimate the power of the mind, the importance of love and faith, and never stop dreaming.” Martin said.
Believe me, when your mom wanted you to die when you are in coma, she was feeling the pain that you were going through. She probably knew that you were aware of the surroundings, but she herself felt useless and helpless. Nothing is more painful than seeing your loved one suffering and yet you are helpless.
I know how it feels like because that was what my mother went through. She had a fall 8 years earlier and the injuries of this fall was to deteriorate later to firstly rob her of her mobility, then her ability to swallow and had to be tube-fed, then her ability to speak and we had to constantly guess what she was trying to tell us. And when we were unable to understand her, she could only cry in frustration. We had to hire a maid to bathe her, change napkins for her, though she would have preferred her own children to do it. Like you, her life was constantly under someone’s control and she does not like it but she could not help it. She even suffered from bedsores as huge as a human palm, and later gangrene developed on her her heels due to long periods of abrasion, lying on her bed. She could not even tell us she was feeling immense pain. This went on for 4 years. We did our very best to ensure she was well-cared for, but somehow, we knew we had not done well enough, especially her emotional needs. There were times I felt like asking her if she wants anasthasia, but I dare not imagine how she would have felt.
Only difference is that she did not recover to tell us her story, she died with her bottled up feelings of frustration and regret that she did not get to see her two other children who left the family 20 years ago. And we, the surviving children, have to bear the pain now for the rest of our lives.