ROSENBERG, Texas — Lisa Alamia is a Texan, through and through. But you wouldn’t know it when she opens her mouth to speak.
She had surgery on her lower jaw a few months ago, and she’s had a British accent ever since.
“I didn’t notice it at first,” said Alamia, who is of Mexican heritage. “But my husband told me I was talking funny. My surgeon thought it was just a physical result of the surgery and that it would go away as I healed.”
But it didn’t, so she ended up seeing Dr. Toby Yaltho, a Houston neurologist.
He diagnosed her with foreign accent syndrome, an extremely rare condition where people speak with a different accent, usually after some kind of head trauma or stroke. In some cases, like Alamia’s, there’s no clear cause.
There’s only been about 100 known cases of foreign accent syndrome in the past 100 years, Yaltho told KTRK.
“Most neurologists work their entire careers and never come across (this),” he said.
Yaltho gave Alamia a complete neurological exam and determined she didn’t have a brain injury, hadn’t suffered a stroke and didn’t have any complications from her surgery.
Alamia said Yaltho told her there’s “something going on in my brain that is triggering the accent.”
‘Doesn’t define who I am’
Alamia’s doing speech therapy to try to get her old voice back, and that’s helped a little, but if her Texas drawl never returns, she’s OK with that too.
“I’m completely comfortable staying how I am,” Alamia told KTRK.
“The accent doesn’t define who I am. I’m still the same person I was before surgery; I just talk differently.”