Ghost Boy

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body

Author: Martin Pistorius with Megan Lloyd Davies

Published: November 19, 2013
Dates Read: January 17-27, 12017

My Rating: 3 Stars

Book Summary from Amazon:

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 unknown degenerative disease left him with the mind of a baby and less than two years to live.
Martin was moved to care centers for severely disabled children. The stress and heartache shook his parents’ marriage and their family to the core. Their boy was gone. Or so they thought.

Ghost Boy is the heart-wrenching story of one boy’s return to life through the power of love and faith. In these pages, readers see a parent’s resilience, the consequences of misdiagnosis, abuse at the hands of cruel caretakers, and the unthinkable duration of Martin’s mental alertness betrayed by his lifeless body.

We also see a life reclaimed—a business created, a new love kindled—all from a wheelchair. Martin’s emergence from his own darkness invites us to celebrate our own lives and fight for a better life for others.

My Review:

Ghost Boy is true story of Martin Pistorius. At 12 years old he became ill and eventually was not able to communicate and had to be an a wheelchair. His family was told he would die in less than two years. His family also believed he was not aware of what was going on around him and had less intelligence than a toddler. Martin did not die as doctors predicted, he continued to live. He eventually became aware of his surroundings but was still unable to communicate. This lasted over a decade until one of his caregivers believed he did have awareness. Over time, Martin was able teach himself to read and communicate via a computer. Despite his limited mobility, he was eventually able to get a job and find love.

This is a tragic story. The fact that is a real life story makes this a hard book to review as I had some issues with it. Those issues are what kept Ghost Boy from receiving a higher rating. The three star rating is a ‘good’ rating from me and there is nothing wrong with this rating. I will talk about the issues I had with the book and then a talk a little bit more about Ghost Boy.

The description of the book makes it appear that there was no form of communication from Martin at all. Indeed, at first he is not conscious however he later becomes self-aware, and eventually begins to communicate using a computer. Perhaps a different title and description would give the reader a better idea of what the book is actually about, or perhaps I just had the wrong impression.

Sadly, we still do not know what disease Martin has. He is still in a wheelchair and unable to speak without a computer to this day. I wish we had found out what his disorder was, though there are cases like this where we never discover what causes such a debilitating condition.

Some parts of the book Martin seemed to ramble on. Parts of the book could have been removed and it would not have affected the story. Another issue I had was that the book went back and forth in time. One chapter would take place in the past and the next would take place years later. This made Ghost Boy hard to follow at times, especially since I was listening to the audiobook. Occasionally the year or Martin’s age would be mentioned, but it was still difficult to follow. It just came off somewhat unorganized.

Martin’s story:
This is a tragic story. Imagine one day you wake up but can’t communicate or let anyone know that you know what’s going on. It could drive a person crazy but Martin dealt with this. He would be left in a room in front of a TV and ignored. People would do things in front of him that they wouldn’t normally do in front of someone because he was a ‘ghost boy’ who was invisible, when in fact he was conscious of everything going on.

*WARNING* Martin was mistreated by his caregivers in many ways. He was abused which he goes into detail about. There is also sexual abuse and rape, and he also gives graphic details. This could disturb some readers. It angered me to listen to this and you know that this happens all the time to the disabled and they may not be able to do anything about it.

Despite being unable to communicate I was surprised to hear Martin talk about his belief and faith in God. This was a welcome surprise. Somehow he knew about God and trusted and believed in Him. Through Martin’s experiences, he found a closeness with God as he could ‘talk’ with Him. In some way this may have saved Martin from going crazy not being able to communicate with people.

I found an article from June 2015 written by Martin’s wife that you may find it of interest, as I did. The article is from Redbook Magazine. After listening to Ghost Boy it was nice to read her perspective of events.

Despite the issues I had with Ghost Boy, I still recommend it. It is a story of resilience and strength that not many people may have. It also makes you think about the disabled who are not able to communicate. Are they actually fully aware of their surroundings or not? And if they could speak, what would they tell us?