There is so much we don’t understand about our own brains.
I was reminded of this again as I read about a teenager in Georgia who awoke from a coma speaking fluent Spanish. He is Rueben Nsemoh, 16, and was playing soccer when he was kicked in the head diving for a loose ball. He suffered a severe concussion and was in a coma for three days. When he finally regained consciousness, his first words were “Tengo hambre” (“I am hungry”). Rueben did know a few Spanish phrases, his brother has studied in Spain, and he has Spanish-speaking teammates, but his family has always spoken English.
It’s not unheard of for a patient with major trauma to start speaking in a different language or accent. In June, a Texas woman started speaking with a British accent after surgery on her lower jaw. That case was diagnosed as a rare condition known as foreign accent syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, changes in language can occur after severe Traumatic Brain Injury and concussions. In this case, doctors expect Rueben to fully recover.
By the way, the medical costs of this case are in the $250,000 range, far beyond the family’s means, so there is a GoFundMe page for Rueben.
At least the medical part is a miracle.
This was adapted from the Time magazine daily news brief for October 24, 2016, http://time.com/4542967/teen-coma-fluent-spanish-georgia/?xid=newsletter-brief. That’s also the source for the photo.