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This is Exactly Why We Should Never Refer to Humans as “Vegetables”

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Published on: January 14, 2015

Martin Pistorious is a 39-year-old man who is married and living his life to the fullest. However, the remarkable thing about Martin is that beginning at the age of 12 he lost his fine motor skills, leading doctors to declare that he was in a “vegetable-like” state. This is what “civilized” man has reduced the image bearer of God to, a vegetable. Yet, it seems that God has a lesson to teach men. That lesson is that men are not vegetables. After more than a decade, Martin came out of that state and has now written a new book about his experience titled Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body.

Martin was diagnosed by doctors with Cryptococci Meningitis in the 1980’s and they told his parents, Rodney and Joan Pistorious, to take him home so he could die.

Imagine you, as a parent, hearing such news from your doctor about your child.

However, Martin didn’t die. He continued to live and as he explains, “I was aware of everything, just like any normal person.”

“Martin just kept going, just kept going,” his mother said.

Martin’s father talked with NPR.

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.

Martin recounted, “Yes, I was there, not from the very beginning, but about two years into my vegetative state, I began to wake up. 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. The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that — totally alone.”

At one point, out of desperation and a sense of hopelessness, Martin’s mother told her son, “I hope you die.”

Martin heard those words too, which only further solidified his loneliness. “You don’t really think about anything. You simply exist. It’s a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish.”

“My mind was trapped inside a useless body, my arms and legs weren’t mine to control and my voice was mute,” he wrote. “I couldn’t make a sign or sounds to let anyone know I’d become aware again. I was invisible—the ghost boy.”

According to Life News:

Martin spent most of those days at a care center where his caregivers played Barney reruns over and over again. They did this because they believed he was a vegetable too. He said, “I cannot even express to you how much I hated Barney.”

But eventually, Martin became frustrated with being trapped in his own body and started to try and take control of his life. He learned to tell time by the rising and setting of the sun and would reframe even the ugliest of thoughts that haunted him like his mother’s wish for him to die. “As time passed, I gradually learned to understand my mother’s desperation. Every time she looked at me, she could see only a cruel parody of the once-healthy child she had loved so much,” said Martin.

Martin’s experience is the experience of numerous people across the globe. It was the experience of Terri Schiavo in Florida. This was a woman that everyone said was “brain dead” and a “vegetable.” Her husband petitioned the court for her to be starved to death and doctors were accomplices in her murder (Yes, that is what it was, not a mercy killing). Both he and the doctors, along with the judges who rendered the order to starve Schiavo should have been arrested and charged with murder.

This has also been the experience of Johnny Farese, who has also face the horror of losing motor skills and being unable to move or communicate, only to have them return. Johnny’s motto has always been, “I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.  What I can do, I should do.  And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.” 

Martin’s story impacted Hannah Bleau at Young Conservatives so much that she recounted the experiences she had with her younger sister, who was born with cerebral palsy.

“She can’t walk, talk or feed herself on her own,” she wrote. “She’s trapped in a body that won’t work. While she’s far from a “vegetable-like” state, I know she has experienced the same things as Martin. When you can’t communicate or control your muscle movements to show people you are listening, you can feel totally alone. I’ve witnessed my sister’s own frustration. Sometimes the people that are thought to know you the best (family) have the hardest time communicating and connecting.”

Bleau also said she would get frustrated with people who gawked at her sister or said hurtful things, thinking that she couldn’t understand what they were saying.

She then added these wise words of admonition, “All life is precious…. We should all be cognizant of the disabled children and adults in our community. No matter how bad they look, they might just be another lonely soul trapped inside a body that refuses to cooperate with their mind, will and emotions. Martin’s life is a testament to that.”

Amen! Let us not forget that on the Day of Judgment, we will stand before King Jesus and give an account to how we have treated those like Hannah Bleau’s sister, Terri Schiavo and Martin Pistorious.

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” –Matthew 25:40

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