Martin Pistorius was just 12 years old when his health unexpectedly and mysteriously started to decline. From there, he went into a coma-like state for 12 years, but awoke to tell an amazing story.
"There were many times when I tried to reach out ... For some many years I was like a ghost, I could hear and see everything, but it was like I wasn't there, I was invisible," Pistorius said.
NBC landed the first American television interview with Pistorius, who is now almost 40.
Pistorius says he began to "wake up" again mentally around age 16 and was completely aware by 19. He tried to communicate, but couldn't.
When he was in that coma, Martin's parents were told he had the mental capacity of a 3-month-old, and for hours he would be sat in front of the TV with Barney. He grew to hate the show.
"I can't listen to or watch Barney now ... Barney played, I guess you could say, a tormenting role in my life," he told NBC. "For years, I would get flashbacks and have nightmares."
Everything changed when Pistorius was 25. A care worker saw signs of awareness in Martin's eyes and urged his family to investigate.
They took him to the Centre For Augmentative And Alternative Communication at the University of Pretoria, which would go on to help Pistorius start communicating with the outside world.
He couldn't move or speak for years. He tells his miraculous story of recovery in his book "Ghost Boy."
It is on The New York Times Best seller's list. Now, he has gained enough use of his hands and arms to do book signings, drive - and he can speak with the help of a computer.
Pistorius also wrote a piece about his ordeal in the Daily Mail: "Medication after medication was tried – to no effect. I'd travelled beyond what medicine understood. I was lost in the land where dragons lie and no one could rescue me."
There's a moment that still stands out for Pistorius and his family from that time - the moment his mother said, in an act of desperation, that she wished he would die.
"I'm very, very sorry I said that," his mother Joan Pistorius told NBC.
Pistorius says he understands where she was coming from, and only wished he could've told her what a great job she was doing taking care of him. Pistorius has now even fallen in love - he got married in 2009, and he and his wife want a baby.
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