The Sunday Times today tells the story of Martin Pistorius, a South African man who ended up paralyzed and comatose following a throat infection at the age of 12. His awareness began to improve four years later and by the age of 19 had fully returned.
However it was a further five years before a therapist noticed that he was trying to communicate. The penny eventually dropped that he had been aware of everything going on around him for almost ten years whilst everybody had assumed he was unconscious.
Miller writes in more detail, but the picture of Martin’s early years is grimly the same. In the late 1980s, at age 12 he came down with a mysterious disease which got progressively worse (the best guess doctors could make was cryptococcal meningitis). Interestingly, Miller never uses what came to be the final diagnosis: locked-in syndrome
What she couldn’t know of her boy who “just kept going, just kept going,” was that the now-39-year-old Martin heard her perfectly, not from the beginning of his “vegetative” state, but from about two years later when he was around 14.
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