Ooh la la! Brummie mother-of-two loses her voice for a month after severe bout of flu… and when it comes back she has FRENCH ACCENT
Debie Royston suffered seizures before accent changeThe mother-of-two feels like she has lost her identity
A mother-of-two recovered from flu only to find that her accent had changed from Brummie to French.
Debie Royston, 40, originally from Birmingham, suffered a series of seizures after a bad bout of the illness.
It caused her to lose the ability to speak and, when her voice did come back a month later, she was shocked to discover her Brummie accent was gone in what doctors believe is a case of a rare condition known as Foreign Accent Syndrome.
Debie Royston, 40, originally from Birmingham, suffered a series of seizures after a bad bout of flu and now speaks with a French accent
The syndrome leaves a person speaking in a different accent due to a brain injury, stroke or migraine – but in Mrs Royston's case none of these have yet been diagnosed.
Now she feels as if she has lost her identity and is struggling to come to terms with her new voice.
She said: 'I had a bad seizure and when it stopped my husband asked if I was okay. I had words in my head but my mouth wouldn’t work.
'Over the next month, I had to learn to speak again. Only when I did, I could hear a different sound, not my Brummie accent.
'Everybody said I sounded French but I’ve never even been there.'
She added: 'Every
day I wake up and think: ''don’t speak'' because in my silence I am Deb
but something will happen and the silence is broken. You’re a stranger
Medics were baffled by Mrs Royston's condition after tests came back clear so she was referred to a speech therapist.
Debi did have a Brummie accent (Birmingham is pictured) Foreign Accent Syndrome affects just 60 people worldwide and there is currently no known cure
This diagnosis was confirmed in March last year when she was sent to see an expert in speech and language at Newcastle University.
Foreign Accent Syndrome affects just 60 people worldwide and there is currently no known cure.
She said: 'People speak to me and say: ‘where are you from’ and when I say Birmingham, they look at me like I’m lying about it.
'They say: ‘no, you’re French.'
When Mrs Royston, who now lives in Gillingham, Kent, developed flu like symptoms, she put it down to a virus and assumed she would soon recover.
But over the next few weeks her symptoms worsened so she went to see her GP.
She said: 'He wasn’t very helpful.
'I tried to carry on as normal but it became a struggle. My head was pounding. It felt like I had been out drinking heavily the night before.'
FOREIGN ACCENT SYNDROME
The syndrome is caused when the brain is damaged through a stroke, tumour or a trauma or it can be caused by some psychological reasons like depression or major psychoses.
It affects just 60 people worldwide and there is no known cure.
People who suffer from it find it distressing as voice is integral to our identity.
The changes to the person's speech sound like a foreign or dialectical accent.
For most people sounding foreign is temporary but for a small number of people the changes are permanent.
When her face started drooping her worried husband, Andy, 41, took her took her to the Medway Maritime Hospital.
After a series of tests she had a seizure and she had spasms for about 20 minutes.
Doctors couldn’t find anything medically wrong with her so they discharged her while she waited for an appointment for another brain scan.
However, the seizures began again – up to 10 a day – and she was rushed back to hospital where she suffered another one while waiting to see a neurologist which left her unable to speak.
Following a month of intensive therapy she began to speak again but her voice was unrecognisable to family and friends.
She said: 'I was so happy I could talk but when I started to say words I was thinking this is not how I speak. It didn’t sound like me.
'I didn’t think any more about it until I bumped into my neighbour outside. Her grandson, who’s three, was there and he asked me why I was speaking like I was from France.'
Debi says she has never been to France and cannot understand why her accent sounds French
Since her illness she has been forced to give up her job as a teaching assistant and Andy, who is a stock control manager for a music distribution company, had to work from home for six months to help care for her.
She has also left her with muscle weakness and she needs the aid of a walking stick.
Professor Nick Miller, an expert in motor speech disorders from Newcastle University, who diagnosed Debie, said: 'Foreign Accent Syndrome can be caused by either a neurological problem, such as an injury to the brain, or for some psychological reasons like depression or major psychoses might be the origin.
'Many people who experience changes to their brain may end up with speech difficulties. Usually listeners hear these as disordered speech, but for a small subgroup, listeners perceive their speech as foreign.
'This is because the subtle changes that the listener picks up are reminiscent of a particular foreign accent.
'The exact causes of the speech changes in Debie’s case are not entirely sure. We have not pinned it down yet. She appears to have suffered some seizures, but other factors may be present.
'For most people, sounding foreign is a temporary phase of a few days, weeks or months.
'The number of people left with a permanent foreign sounding accent are relatively few.'