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Ghost Boy: My Miraculous Escape from a Life Locked Inside My Own Body

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  20,120 ratings  ·  2,215 reviews
They all thought he was gone. But he was alive and trapped inside his own body for ten years.

In January 1988 Martin Pistorius, aged twelve, fell inexplicably sick. First he lost his voice and stopped eating. Then he slept constantly and shunned human contact. Doctors were mystified. Within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair-bound. Martin's parents were told an unkn
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2011)
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Paula There is a big difference between an uninformed reader and a "medically plausible explanation". Please don't take offense, and I don't think you meant…moreThere is a big difference between an uninformed reader and a "medically plausible explanation". Please don't take offense, and I don't think you meant any, so I'll take a quick minute to write a couple lines I remember from my 800 page neuroscience text book - for neuro 101.

The precentral gyrus is your sensory area of the brain, post central gyrus is motor control, your cerebellum is PRIMARY, but not solely responsible for co-ordination, , brainstem bits are respobsible for arousal level- which has a lot to do with your posture and balance and tone (Martin has spasticity in many muscles). Its not like a light bulb, where if you have it plugged in it works or it don't; its the most complicated circuitry known to man kind, hundreds of times more complicated than top of the line computer server banks with hundreds of CPUs working at once. All of this information, the pull of gravity, the texture and shape of the floor, the position of every joint in your body- WHILE IN MOTION- has to be recieved, processed, coordinated into output, routed through the cerebellum and sent back to muscles that have to be quick enough, strong enough and have the endurance to respond.

Through dedicated therapy, he has regained a good deal of neuromuscular function- but not all and not at a high level, and not well co-ordinated. I bet if I strapped you down immobile for twenty years and then told you to walk, it would't be so easy- and you don't have a brain injury. Two months in traction is enough for most people to reqiure physical therapy to walk again after a traumatic injury to bone or muscle alone- it can all fall apart in 8 weeks...
MOST people in a wheelchair DO have some muscular control, whether they got there from a spinal cord injuy, MS, ALS, muscular dystropy, stroke etc.
Muscle strength, or coordination, endurance, perceptual sensation, tone or balance- and these things come from different parts of your brain AND your body. If you are lucky, they all work together beautifully, everything humming along at 100%- start burning out circuits and you could be screwed.
As for talking and facial muscles- you have 12 distinct cranial nerves that innervate the face and head and some of your neck. One nerve, the Facial, I think it's VII, innervates the muscles that let you smile and move your lips for speech, and some cheek muscles needed for eating/chewing. An entirely different nerve, with an entirely different pathway through the brain, trigeminal, or nerve V controls the muscles that open and close the jaw, (and some of your eye muscles) a third nerve, again, with its own connections and pathways innervates muscles in the tongue, XII which is one of the ONLY muscles in the body that is innervated by both sides of the brain, so weakness in nerve conduction on one side exacerbates difficulties because both sides need to work in tandem to maintain symmetry needed to speak. Perhaps Martin could try hard to learn how to speak, but should he? Should he come out drooling and mumbling and face that stigma when he can retain his dignity and articulation with an alternate communication device?

I took the time to write this up, becasue I think you just didn't know, but this is part of what Martn is talking bout in his book. I hope this was informative, and will help you to realize how INSANELY OFFENSIVE AND INSENSITIVE your initial comment was, and that you won't ever ever do it again, right? (less)
Sharon Fawcett This is the interview that introduced me to Martin Pistorius and this great story. I think it will answer a lot of your questions.…more
This is the interview that introduced me to Martin Pistorius and this great story. I think it will answer a lot of your questions.

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What do you think the worst things to tolerate would be if you had locked-in syndrome and could not communicate at all with people who did not even realise you had cognitive function? Unseasoned food, too-hot coffee (fed through a straw) and being positioned with his testicles trapped under him in his wheelchair. Also that having to watch Barney loving everyone on the care home tv was driving him mad.

The author fell into a vegetative state at age 12 and started to come round at 16, but it was no
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Only Virna touches me for no other reason than to soothe my aching body - she comforts and heals, making me feel like something other than the repulsive creature I know I am.

This book is horrifying on many levels.

When Pistorius was 12, he came down with an unknown illness that trapped him inside his own body. Within a few weeks he became paralyzed. Unable to speak or move, Pistorius was a prisoner. Put into a day-home with people with an I.Q. or 30 or lower, Pistorius was still in full possessi
Whitney Atkinson
TW/ sexual and physical abuse

It's been a while since a book has touched my heart like this did. The beginning of Martin's story is one of horror, but it evolves to be one of great triumph and growth. I loved his story of how he goes from someone who believes himself to have no future to someone who now has a bestselling book, his own business, and is expecting a child. This book was also a great exploration of people with non-verbal disabilities and how dehumanizing it can feel, so it really exp
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, own-a-copy
This is the incredible story of a once-normal 12 year old boy who fell inexplicably sick and became a « living vegetable ». For six years, he’s “out”. Between the age of 18 and 20, his mind slowly but steadily resurges, while his body remains totally unresponsive to his will. To the world, including the people caring for him and even to his family, he still seems the lifeless body without a brain or any intelligence. While Martin himself does not remember being the once-normal 12 year old, he do ...more
Sal Noel
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you work with people with disabilities- specifically Profound and Multiple you really should read this book. I came in at the end of an interview on Radio 4 with the author, and noted down the title. I tend to buy books almost by chance- quick read of the blurb, or a writer I already know. I went out that week to buy this book. The story is remarkable. Imagine coming round and having lost part of your life and not being able to communicate. Not saying when you were uncomfortable, being spoken ...more
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was so eager to read this book, the story sounded amazing. Unfortunately it was poorly written. I was actually bored at some of the rambling and skipped through pages and pages. The "characters" were real people, they should have been "developed" more. I didn't really feel a connection to any of them, except Martin.
I truly don't understand the 4 and 5 star ratings. I think they are based on the idea of the story, not the book itself.
Diane in Australia
"Have you ever seen one of those movies where someone wakes up as a ghost but doesn't even know they've died? However much I tried to beg and plead, shout and scream, I couldn't make them notice me. I was invisible. The ghost boy."

Great book. When Martin was 12, he became sick. The doctors didn't know why. Within 18 months he was a 'vegetable' ... unable to speak, or move. A couple of years went by, and he began to slowly 'awake'. But no one noticed ... for ten long years ... until a carer named
Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
What a wonderful story that was so poorly written it was sad. This had the potential to be a great story, perhaps even an important story, but the crafting of this story made it seem uninteresting and mundane. The publisher should have hired someone to write this.
Matthew Ciarvella
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
This is a heartfelt and moving story. Don't let the three stars mislead you; this will pull on your heartstrings and make you appreciate just how much we take it for granted that we can verbalize our communications.

Nevertheless, the promo information misrepresented the nature of the story and made it seem like Martin was completely unable to communicate or let anyone know that he was conscious at all.

Second, the narrative framing is somewhat hard to follow. Events are presented out of sequence
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm not going to rehash the plot, because it's already been done, so I'll get right to my review of the book. I give Martin Pistorious a lot of credit for not only surviving a devastating illness, but thriving despite it. His story is remarkable and inspiring. However, the editing and sequencing of the events in the book caused me knock a few stars off of my rating. The chapters skipped from one year to another in no sequential order, and no dates were given so I couldn't begin each section of t ...more
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you find those remarkable life stories that are almost too awe inspiring to be true. This is the case with this book. Martin has to overcome extraordinary odds in order to be able to write this book, and faces deep personal issues outside of his illness before he can accept who he is and the love of an equally extraordinary woman. I loved this personal account, and I loved the way this book was written between times because it made the reality of his illness always at the forefront. A ...more
Pei Pei
I read this after hearing about Pistorius's story on "Invisibilia," and I'm torn on reviewing the book. On the one hand, the story itself is unbelievably gripping and fascinating. I also do believe, strongly, that it's crucial that he got to tell his own story, after so many years of silence. That said, I felt like I would rather have read a really good third-person nonfiction account of the whole thing. Like a Laura Hillenbrand book, or something along the lines of The Immortal Life of Henriett ...more
Mary Jo
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great story for everyone to learn more about augmentative and alternative communication. A must read for speech therapists and special educators.
Rebecca McNutt
This book is one of the most amazing true stories I've ever read. Imagine seeing your entire family fall apart? Imagine being left behind at a full-time care facility to be watched by nurses and doctors all the time? Imagine being trapped in your own mind?

But escape was possible for the author of this unforgettable memoir. Ghost Boy is a story about reclaiming life and beating the odds, but it's also about the rest of the author's family and how they coped with the diagnosis that their son was
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The ONE book I'm going to recommend to EVERYONE. Period.
I can't describe how honest and dear this story is, how I laughed through tears, cheered quietly, mourned, happily sighed, and came to an unlikely empathy with the two hours (3-5 a.m.) it took me to devour it.
Read it.
Buy it and share it. (It's too good to check out of the library, because you'll want it on your shelves. Really!)
But I hope all libraries find this book and add it to their collection!
Diane V-R
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
"In January 1988, aged twelve, Martin Pistorius fell inexplicably sick. First he lost his voice and stopped eating; then he slept constantly and shunned human contact. Doctors were mystified. Within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair-bound. Martin's parents were told that an unknown degenerative disease had left him with the mind of a baby and he probably had less than two years to live. Martin went on to be cared for at centres for severely disabled children, a shell of the bright, viva ...more
Abbass  Maanna
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An overwhelming, heart-breaking true story of Martin Pistorius .The kid who was diagnosed with an unknown neurological disorder that kept him trapped in his own lifeless body; a ghost boy having a soul with a useless body.

I don’t want to spoil the miraculous story of Martin. But I should say, as Martin wanted from writing his own life experience, that everyone’s life is a white piece of paper that’s colored upon which colors he wants whatever his circumstances are.

As the Bible says:” There are t
Willow Brooks
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is so bitter sweet. I honestly still feel like crying over this story. This man was trapped in his body for 12 years and knew everything that was said and done to him. Abused in so many ways including raped by caretakers. My heart breaks for him.

This true story is terrifying, and encouraging. This story should be an example to all when you think of leaving someone you love in the hands of other people, knowing your loved one can't communicate their pain, emotions, or the horrible thin
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
It's a good story, but not a good book. There are a lot of things that I felt were problematic, and maybe not handled correctly. It was sometimes physically painful for me to read this. I will say this book brings many important issues to light, many of which most people might not even think about, such as mistreatment of people in care homes.
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you're not moved by this book you're made of stone. I think it's very brave of him to be so open & honest about his life in such a genuine & humble manner. I wish him a life full of everything his heart desires. ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ugh, how does one rate an autobiography of someone who went through SO MUCH and triumphed? I'm going to go with 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4, because I didn't love it enough to make it a keeper and re-read it.

It IS a worthy book to read though. It's the story of a man who was basically "locked in" to his body after a mysterious illness made him comatose, then in an awakened state, but where he had no control over his body or speech. For years.

I give this man credit, he did NOT go insane or will
Mike Van In
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographic
I came across Martin Pistorius' name by chance while reading a technical item on PC accessibility tools, years ago. I was so intrigued by the glimpse into his experience that I wrote to him to get to know more about his amazing story. We corresponded several times and became quite friendly. When Martin told me he was having his biography published, I impatiently waited for about fourteen months to read it.

This is one of those astounding biographies that reveals the hidden but exceptional people
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ghost Boy is written as a journey, which the reader takes along with the writer. The journey gives a vivid picture of what one individual with physical limitations goes through and how they meet each new experience along the way. This book is written in the voice of the author/main character, Martin pistorius.

I cannot say enough good things about Ghost Boy. Late at night I struggled to put the book down. I felt propelled to turn each and every page. Martin held my complete attention.

Ghost Boy aw
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Martin's story is intense, from beginning to end. This is definitely a page-turner. I could barely put it down. Still, there are some parts that are hard to read. For example, while reading about some of the abhorrent things he experienced in a care home, I literally felt bile rise in my throat as I started gagging. He doesn't hold back.

I couldn't help but be continuously intrigued and inspired by his story. His miraculous recovery and journey "back to life" as he slowly gained his independe
Stephanie Ward
4.5 Stars

'Ghost Boy' is the raw and emotional memoir of Martin Pistorius, who was misdiagnosed when he fell ill as a preteen and had to endure the next ten years of his life trapped inside his own body and not knowing if things would ever change for him. It's an emotional roller coaster of a book - heartbreaking and tragic, but at the same time full of hope and faith.

I had seen this book around lately and thought that the description sounded incredibly fascinating. I like to read memoirs once in
A truly inspirational story, I loved listening to Martin Pistorius's memoir. Martin was a healthy twelve year old boy when a mysterious illness left him in a coma-like state. This is the story of how, with the love and devotion of his parents and one very important caregiver, he "came back to life" years later.

While parts of the story are difficult to listen to, the whole of it is uplifting. It broke my heart thinking about his parents and their battle to get help for him and also cope with the
Barb McKinley
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone that ejoys a great story.
Recommended to Barb by: Read about the story in a newspaper
What a great read. Author, Martin Pistorius gives a glimpse into the life of a boy that succumbs to illness and wakes up after 4 years trapped in a body that won't move or speak. This is his amazing journey back to earth.

Mr. Pistorius'writing style is easy to read with a definite gift for keeping an autographical book interesting. I would like to see Mr. Pistorius write some type of fiction. I rarely read non-fiction but his story intrigued by what I saw in a news piece.

I am so glad that I took
Rebecca Serrato
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book has given me a whole new perspective on people who are disabled.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What a beautiful and touching tale. While this is not a love story, my heart broke but was then refilled with love throughout every chapter. The loss, the gain, the heartbreak, and reconnections. "Ghost Boy," was a beautiful story to read; I was better to understand how other people can live, as well as learn about their experiences. Finishing this book I can honestly say how proud I am of Martin, his family, Joanna, and all of his supporters. We are all the same but oh-so different. I rate ...more
Elisabeth Manley
Sep 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Finally! This may have gotten a 4 if it didn't take me so long to get through but I just broke it up too much, blame school ruining all my fun reading time. I liked that we got to follow Martin through his journey and accompanying pictures through those times so that by the end you really appreciate the happy ending and can understand the struggles he went through to get there. I wish I knew more about his progressions and changes in daily abilities near the end where the focus shifted mostly to ...more
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