Australian woman's splitting migraine left her speaking with a thick Irish accent

Australian woman's splitting migraine left her speaking with a thick Irish accent


AN AUSTRALIAN woman now speaks with an Irish accent, after suffering a rare form of migraine.

Kate Baggs, 30, suffers from hemiplegic migraines which cause her symptoms similar to that of a stroke – including paralysis, an inability to talk and, bizarrely, foreign accent syndrome.

At the moment, she's been stuck speaking in an Irish accent for five days.

Her first episode was back in 2015, when she had to learn how to talk again after a brutal migraine… which turned her accent Canadian.

It eventually went back to her normal Australian accent until three weeks ago, when it suddenly turned Irish while she was on holiday with her godparents.

Kate has lived down under her entire life and has visited Canada or Ireland.

Kate said: “Going to Ireland has always been a dream of mine – hopefully it will be my next trip and I’ll be able to sound like a local.

“The most the doctors can understand is that the migraines are probably happening at the speech and language centre of my brain."

She recalled being at the shop buying a toothbrush when her accent changed.

“I was at the shop buying a toothbrush and I started the sentence sounding like the Australian me and by the end of the sentence I realised something was odd.

“My godmother thought I was making a joke, mimicking something from a movie we were talking about.

“It’s been Irish ever since and it doesn’t show any signs of going away anytime soon.

“I had no control over it but I thought ‘that sounds really funny.

“It’s constant, it’s not an accent I’ve been exposed to, I don’t have interactions with anyone with an Irish accent."

Although she's had a number of MRIs and scans, there's no evidence of damage to Kate's brain.

She is on preventive medication and her episodes can last between two hours and a few weeks.

Fortunately, Kate has the support of her family and husband, Dave, who all think her situation is quite funny.

Kate said: “Because I was on holiday for the first weeks my husband had only heard me over the phone so when I did actually see him in person he said ‘wow it’s really thick’.

“He likes to do different accents so every now and then he is trying to copy me.

Symptoms of hemiplegic migraines

Hemiplegic migraines are rare and extremely severe reactions.

According to the Migraine Trust, the word hemiplegic simply means paralysis on one side of the body.

Symptoms can include:

  • temporary weakness on one side of their body involving the face, arm or leg
  • numbness, or pins and needles
  • speech difficulties
  • vision problems
  • confusion

This can be a frightening experience for the individual as these symptoms are similar to those of a stroke. This weakness may last from one hour to several days, but usually it goes within 24 hours.

The head pain associated with migraine typically follows the weakness, but the headache may precede it or be absent.

And it can cause Foreign Accent Syndrome – a condition where you develop speech patterns that sound like a foreign accent.

It's usually the result of a stroke, but can also develop from head trauma, migraines or developmental issues.

There have only been 62 recorded cases since 1907 so it's super rare.

Back in 2013, the BBC published an hour-long documentary about Sarah Colwill, a woman from Devon who developed a "Chinese" accent after having a severe migraine.

In 2016, a Texas woman was diagnosed with the syndrome after developing a "British" accent following a jaw operation.

“The first time my sister heard me she burst out laughing for five minutes and couldn’t believe it was me."

But Kate's migraines can be very serious.

“It appears like I’m having a stroke, I can’t move my left side of the body, lift my arm or talk.

“I couldn’t speak for over two weeks, my face had dropped the way you see with stroke patients – I knew it was caused because of the migraines and I tried to get some rest."

Caffeine and stress tend to be triggers for an episode but occasionally, a migraine happens with no obvious cause.

“My body is completely unreliable; I don’t know if the next day I will be able to talk or walk so I kind of let my body decide what’s each day is going to be like.

“Letting your body to decide what it needs has been a very important lesson for me and has made a difference.

“I could be speaking like me literally in the next second, but it could last for years."

She says that she's had friends ring her, only to hang up thinking that they've got the wrong number.

Everything about Kate's voice changes – including her tone and pitch.

“It’s very strange speaking with a voice that’s not your own.

“People usually tell me: ‘it’s so authentic, you sound like you could be from Ireland’.

“I am trying to enjoy it as long as it lasts as it has a nice melody on it- I’ve decided to do more things such as public speaking while I still have it. “

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