Martin Pistorius, now 40, spent more than a decade trapped inside his own body unable to speak or move, while his family reportedly believed he was unaware of the world around him.
For the first time, Pistorius has spoken out about his ordeal, describing how he was at times mentally awake but unable to communicate with his loved ones or doctors.
Pistorius was born in South Africa in 1975, the Daily Mail reports. When he was 12, he developed a mysterious illness, now believed to be a degenerative neurological disorder. He had a sore throat, stopped eating, slept almost all the time, and stopped communicating. Over time, he lost control of his body.
His illness baffled doctors, who said he had degenerated to the point that his brain was that of a baby and advised that he be taken home to die.
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Pistorius did not die but rather lived on in a coma-like state for more than a decade at home and in daycare centers.
Pistorius likens the ordeal to being “like a ghost.”
"I could hear and see everything, but it was like I wasn't there,” Pistorius told NBC News in his first U.S. television interview in January 2015. "I was invisible."
Pistorius became aware of his surroundings by the age of 16 but could not communicate, leaving him “powerless.”
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“It was terrifying at times,” Pistorius recalled. “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.”
Pistorius tried to signal that he was alert by moving his body, but what he thought were big movements were hardly perceivable.
“At first, when I was trapped inside my body, my biggest fear was being alone, which I guess is kind of ironic," Pistorius said. "Because, in a sense, even though there were people around me, I was alone. I think it was more a case that I felt that, as long as my parents were around, there would be someone to look out for me. But if there weren't, then what?”
A great amount of Pistorius’ time was spent positioned in front of a TV at the care center watching the children’s show “Barney & Friends.” To this day, hearing the song sung by the purple dinosaur on the show triggers painful memories for Pistorius.
“For years, I would get flashbacks and have nightmares," he said.
Being trapped inside of his body was not the only pain Pistorius endured -- he was also reportedly subjected to physical and sexual abuse at the care center.
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Pistorius shared the abuse he encountered — abuse he did not even disclose in his autobiography "Ghost Boy."
“I would dread it whenever my parents told me they were taking me to the care home because I knew what would happen and I had no way of letting them know the agonies I’d suffer,” Pistorius said. “It was horrific. Of course they felt dreadful when they eventually found out and my father Rodney reported what happened but of course everyone denied it and as a result I have never had justice.
“People in the care home would pull my hair making my eyes water, the metal spoon would crash against my teeth as they forced food into my mouth. When it made me sick they’d shout and scream at me. I knew if I cried it would only make it worse.
“I would be forced to drink scalding tea or fed until I was sick, then I’d be slapped, shouted at, made to feel worthless, then would come the sexual attacks from women who were supposed to be looking after me.
“One woman would come into the room and straddle me and simulate sex with me and touch me inappropriately. Nothing made me feel more powerless, I longed to run away."
After Pistorius was able to communicate, he told his parents of the horrors he had endured. His father tried to press charges but there was no evidence of the abuse.
Everything changed for Pistorius when a new worker at the care center would sit down and talk with Pistorius, NBC News notes. The worker than encouraged Pistorius' parents to have him evaluated at the Center for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, where they discovered he was conscious. Pistorius had to relearn everything, from reading to socializing, but he regained full consciousness at the age of 25 and now uses a voice synthesizer to communicate, according to the Daily Mail.
Pistorius now works as a web designer after completing his studies in Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire. In July 2013, he married his wife Joanna, whom he met online through his sister's friend. They now live in Essex county, England.
In the future, Pistorius and Joanna would like to start a family.
"We are a little older now but we hope it may happen, we will just have to see,” Pistorius said.
There is talk that Pistorius’ story will be made into a Hollywood motion picture. Pistorius is open to the idea, and wants “anyone good looking, obviously” to be cast in his role and his wife’s.