Woman Who Went Mute For Two Months Now Has Four Different Accents
When Emily Egan, 31, lost the ability to speak in January this year, doctors were perplexed as countless tests failed to explain why.
But when her voice returned, Emily no longer had her strong Essex accent. Instead, she now mostly speaks with a Polish accent - but her voice can suddenly change to sound like French and Italian.
If the children's home manager becomes stressed, her accent sounds like she's from Russia, and if she's exhausted, she might lose the ability to speak altogether.
After months of confusion and upset, doctors have finally diagnosed Emily with foreign accent syndrome - a rare speech disorder caused by brain damage. However her doctors still aren't sure what caused the damage in the first place.
"It's not just my accent that has changed - I don't speak or think in the same way as before this and I can't construct sentences like I used to," said Emily, who lives in Bournemouth.
"I write differently now, my whole vocabulary has changed and my English has gotten worse despite living in the UK all of my life.
"My dad has said that I don't sound like me any more in that he'd never imagine me wording things like I do now.
"I've even experienced abuse from strangers who think I am foreign - I had a man shout at me in the supermarket saying foreigners like me are the reason we have coronavirus. It's changed my life completely."
Understandably, the changes have turned Emily's life upside down.
She explained: "This whole experience has been exhausting and totally overwhelming.
Emily had been suffering with headaches for two weeks when her voice suddenly deepened and her speech became slow and slurred earlier this year.
She was rushed to hospital where she underwent extensive CT and MRI scans, and doctors ruled out a stroke.
Emily was discharged to a neurologist after spending three weeks in hospital, but she still had no voice and had to communicate through an app on her phone.
"I knew a bit of basic sign language as I needed it for work years ago but I just used my hands to express what I wanted to say," she said, adding: "Adjusting to communicating like this was so hard, I felt like a completely different person."
Emily and her partner Bradleigh, 27, had booked a holiday to Thailand before she fell ill, and she was encouraged by her neurologist to take the trip and try to relax.
Five days into her holiday in March, Emily's voice began to slowly return and she was shocked when she realised she'd developed an Eastern European accent.
"I was so thrilled when my voice started coming back but now I don't even recognise the voice that comes out of my mouth, it doesn't sound like me," she explained.
"I actually used to be so good at putting on accents for my friends before this and I've even had people ask if I'm putting it on - as if I could keep it up this long!"
Emily doesn't know whether she'll ever regain her 'normal' accent but she's been having private vocal therapy once a week over Zoom.
The extremely rare condition has also caused her body to shut down, leaving her exhausted. Only two weeks ago she was rushed to hospital after experiencing weakness in her left hand side - a symptom of a stroke.
Doctors have now also diagnosed her with a functional neurological disorder.
Emily's left arm and hand are now paralysed but doctors hope she will regain feeling and movement with time and therapy.
"I've had to stop working because my job is quite stressful and the doctors have said stress will only make my condition worse," she explained.
"The hardest thing for me is learning that this voice is ok. I have to learn to accept that it's ok for me to not be able to get the words out straight away, it'll come eventually.
"I just have to stop getting so frustrated with myself so am practising holistic approaches to calm and clear my mind with my therapist, as when I get frustrated, everything goes, there's no speech, and it's back to square one.
"I am learning that when I'm tired, my speech goes or my accent changes - it will deepen and go slow, and for the last week, it's been predominantly Russian.
"Doctors can't predict what will happen with my voice. It's just a matter of taking every day as it comes, so I'm just trying to stay positive and hopeful.
"I'd never heard of either of these really rare conditions and now I've been diagnosed with both, it has just been a total whirlwind."
What a stressful year - here's hoping Emily will make a full recovery.
Featured Image Credit: SWNS