And to his horror, when he did awake, he was unable to communicate his return.
The South African man was diagnosed with a debilitating form of meningitis in the late 1980s and was left unable to move, speak or even make eye contact.
His parents, Rodney and Joan Pistorius, were left to do everything for him, from bathing and feeding, helping him pee and poop to turning him in bed and were advised he would soon die.
It was such a tough life that Joan told that she remembers looking at Martin one day and saying: "I hope you die."
And yet from the age of 14 or 15 to now 39 years old, Martin was awake.
He told NPR: "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."Martin said all he could do was "think" and his thoughts became increasingly darker as time went on.
So he decided to block it out and stop thinking.
He said: "You simply exist. It's a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish."Martin's brain began functioning fully at the age of 24 and his body followed at the age of 24.
Martin now functions with very little disability and has also published a book, Ghost Boy: My Escape From a Life Locked Inside My Own Body.