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Here's How Barney Gave An Unresponsive Boy His Life Back

Martin Pistorius was literally alone with his thoughts for over a decade.

Martin Pistorius, 39, is a college grad who started his own web company, wrote a book and is now learning how to drive. He lives in Harlow, England, and has a wife, Joanna, who he met back in 2009. But just a decade before that, Pistorius' family and doctors thought he'd never be able to process normal thoughts again.

Pistorius was born in 1975 in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1988, when he was 12, he became seriously sick with what doctors guessed was cryptococcal meningitis. The illness left him unable to move or speak. Doctors told his parents that his mind was no longer functioning.

They were wrong, as you may have guessed.

For over a decade, Pistorius' family took care of his unresponsive body. They fed him, bathed him, turned his body over in the middle of this night so he wouldn't get bed sores. They never realized that around two years after the sickness struck, Pistorius miraculously began to regain consciousness.

He could hear and understand everything that was going on around him, but because he was still immobile and unable to speak, he couldn't let anyone know. He was trapped.

"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," Pistorius told NPR's Invisibilia show last month. "The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that -- totally alone."

We know, this miraculous story sounds like something from a movie. Pistorius even told NPR that Barney -- of all the things! -- helped him realize that he was regaining consciousness. The care center he spent his days at made him watch Barney on TV for hours and hours on end, and so he slowly grew to loathe the purple dinosaur.

He hated Barney so much that he taught himself to tell time using the sun's shadows -- since he could hardly turn his head to look at the clock -- so that he could figure out when the stupid shows would end. And that opened the door for the rest of his cognitive abilities to return.

After spending many, many years in solitude with his thoughts, he finally underwent cognitive testing in 2001, which confirmed the return of his mental faculties. His full consciousness came back gradually, and he now uses a computer keyboard to communicate since his speech never returned. He went on to study computer science and become a web designer. He has also written a book, "Ghost Boy," about his experiences. All that because of his hatred for a big purple dinosaur.

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