Comatose Patient Aware; Hears Mother Wish Him Dead

A comatose patient became aware of all that was going on, but was paralyzed.

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NPR ran an amazing story: “Trapped In His Body For 12 Years, A Man Breaks Free.”

It was the late ’80s, and young Martin Pistorius, growing up in South Africa, was mostly thinking about electronics. Resistors and transistors and you name it.

But at age 12, his life took an unexpected turn. He came down with a strange illness. The doctors weren’t sure what it was, but their best guess was cryptococcal meningitis.

He got progressively worse. Eventually he lost his ability to move by himself, his ability to make eye contact, and then, finally, his ability to speak.

Twelve years in a coma… but for the final ten years he was there, and aware, and then he woke up. He even heard his mother say how she wished he would die. Imagine…

His parents, Rodney and Joan Pistorius, were told that he was as good as not there, a vegetable. The hospital told them to take him home and keep him comfortable until he died.

But he didn’t die. “Martin just kept going, just kept going,” his mother says.

His father would get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, get him dressed, load him in the car, take him to the special care center where he’d leave him.

“Eight hours later, I’d pick him up, bathe him, feed him, put him in bed, set my alarm for two hours so that I’d wake up to turn him so that he didn’t get bedsores,” Rodney says.

That was their lives, for 12 years.

Joan vividly remembers looking at Martin one day and saying: ” ‘I hope you die.’ I know that’s a horrible thing to say,” she says now. “I just wanted some sort of relief.”

And she didn’t think her son was there to hear it.

But he was.

“Yes, I was there, not from the very beginning, but about two years into my vegetative state, I began to wake up,” Martin recalls. “I was aware of everything, just like any normal person. Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again.”

Given stories like this (and I’ve seen others) I wonder if Michael Schiavo and his attorneys—and Florida Judge George Greer, who approved the execution order to starve Terri to death in 2005—feel the least twinge of regret. It’s sobering how when men decide to play god, it virtually always means someone is going to die.

[See also, “Socialists Pushing Accelerated Death and Euthanasia.”]

So thankful Martin Pistorius’s parents chose life.