Health | Did You Know

He Was Locked Inside His Body For A Decade, Now He's Becoming A Father

Martin Pistorius

We've reported on all kinds of strange and unusual medical cases, including stories about coma patients who miraculously woke up.

But none of those stories hold a candle to the weird tale of Martin Pistorius, the man who was "locked inside" his own body.

Now, Pistorius' incredible true story has one more exciting twist, and it's the best one of all.

Trapped Inside His Body

Pistorius (front right) with his family.Martin Pistorius

Born in South Africa in 1975, Pistorius lived a perfectly normal life until the age of 12.

That's when he developed flu-like symptoms that gradually became more severe.

Soon, Pistorius' muscles weakened, and stopped moving altogether. He fell into what doctors call a "virtual coma" and was unresponsive for four years.

Martin Pistorius
Martin Pistorius

The good news is that Pistorius "woke up" just four years later.

But the bad news is the 16-year-old had no way of signalling to his parents that he was awake.

Pistorius could not move or speak, and doctors told his parents that he was "a vegetable."

"For so many years, I was like a ghost," Pistorius wrote. "I could hear and see everything, but it was like I wasn't there. I was invisible."

"I cannot even express to you how much I hated Barney."

Martin Pistorius
Martin Pistorius

Doctors now say Pistorius suffered from "cryptococcal meningitis," sometimes called locked-in syndrome.

His parents did their best to care for him, but they assumed that Pistorius either could not hear them, or had the mind of a child.

At his care home, they played cheerful children's shows like Barney & Friends over and over, as Pistorius was forced to watch.

Barney & Friends

It sounds like a bad joke, but Pistorius said watching the series nonstop with no way to speak out gave him nightmares for years.

"I cannot even express to you how much I hated Barney," he told The Independent.

To protect himself, Pistorius spent his time daydreaming, or even watching shadows move across the room.

His case seemed hopeless, and once his own mother even told Pistorius, "I hope you die." ("That’s horrific when I think about it now," she told NPR years later.)

Finally Awake

Martin Pistorius
Martin Pistorius

The first stroke of luck for Pistorius came when a new worker started at his care home. They ordered a new round of tests for Pistorius, now 24, and discovered he was awake after all.

Long years of rehab later, Pistorious could move with a motorized wheelchair and talk through with a special text-to-speech device.

Now, he can even use his arms, and drives a car modified for his requirements.

Martin Pistorius
Martin Pistorius

While his story has made him a world-famous public speaker, Pistorius has no happy memories of his time trapped inside himself.

"It was terrifying at times," he wrote.

"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."

"I was truly in shock and felt completely overwhelmed."

Martin Pistorius
Martin Pistorius and his wife, Joanna.Martin Pistorius

If you already thought Pistorius was lucky, wait until you hear how he defied the odds again.

In 2008, he met and fell in love with his wife Joanna, a social worker.

The couple have been trying to start a family for years, including through IVF, without any luck.

A doctor even warned them that they would never have a child, but lo and behold they're now expecting a son.

Martin Pistorius
Jeff Turnbull

The good news came after Joanna caught "food poisoning" during a trip to America.

"For some reason, she thought to do a pregnancy test,” Pistorius wrote. “When the result was positive, we both didn't believe it."

"Initially, I was truly in shock and felt completely overwhelmed — worried about so many things. Now however, I am super excited!"

The proud father-to-be is already reading to the baby with his computerized voice, and learning baby sign language.

Martin Pistorius
Martin Pistorius

Pistorius has been through so much strife and pain in his life, but he learned a few pieces of important advice along the way.

"Treat everyone with kindness, dignity, compassion and respect — irrespective of whether you think they understand or not," he says.

"Life can change so quickly, too, that it is good to appreciate what you have in this moment."

Congrats to Martin and Joanna!

Here are more interesting medical stories:

[H/T: Today,  The Independent, BBC]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com