Scotch Plains Rescue Squad Presents – Medical Mystery – Foreign Accent Syndrome

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Most people realize how serious a brain injury can be. After all, people can have all sorts of detrimental side effects such as blurred vision, headaches, loss of memory, and seizures. However, did you know it could also change your accent?
Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) was first documented in 1907 by French neurologist Pierre Marie, and is one of those rare medical mysteries that doctors are still trying to understand. According to the Center for Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas, “FAS is most often caused by damage to the brain caused by a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Speech remains highly intelligible and does not necessarily sound disordered. FAS has been documented in cases around the world, including accent changes from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, American English to British English, and Spanish to Hungarian.”
According to Dr. Akshay Ganju, a resident in emergency medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, there are only about 100 documented cases around the world. Some doctors refuse to believe it is a real malady, and though it can also be caused by psychological disorders, it’s not something that can be controlled. People who suffer from FAS are often ridiculed by family and friends who think they’re just faking it.
One of the most famous cases was that of a Norwegian woman who was hit by shrapnel in World War II; she developed a German accent and was ostracized as a result. Other people have woken up from anesthesia and found themselves speaking with a different accent.
Although this change of speech may last for only a short time for some, other patients have it for years and some forever. There are various treatments for this disorder, but they are not always successful.
The Scotch Plains Rescue Squad is a volunteer organization of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. With over 90 volunteers, we answer emergency calls not only in Scotch Plains but in surrounding towns as well when needed. Besides answering calls, you will see our ambulances at many special events held in town, such as Scotch Plains Day, the Memorial Day Parade, high school football games, and the summer concerts on the Village Green. We are also available to provide demonstrations for Boys and Girls Scout troops, clubs, and any other group that may be interested in what we do. In addition, we lend out wheelchairs, crutches, canes and other assorted medical equipment free of charge. Our Auxiliary Group holds fund raisers and provides other much needed support for our members. Please reach out to us if there is something we can do for you, or if you would like to become a part of our organization. (908) 322-2103 for non-emergencies or scotchplainsrescuesquad@gmail.com

Contributing Author: Susan Baldani, a life member of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

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