33-year-old Montego Bay resident, Deana-Rae Clayton, has never been to the United Kingdom, but a tragic car accident she had in 2019 left her with a British accent days after waking up from a coma. A right-handed person before the car crash that left her friend dead and two others also critically injured, Clayton is also now left-handed.
Currently blinded in one eye and unable to walk, doctors say Clayton, who also suffers from memory loss as a result of the accident, has foreign accent syndrome – a speech disorder that “causes a sudden change to speech so that a native speaker is perceived to speak with a ‘foreign’ accent.”
The brain disorder is usually caused by a stroke or a traumatic brain injury.
“In the accident, my head trauma caused a stroke and that gave me brain damage,” Clayton told The Sunday Gleaner. “The swelling that the brain damage caused is between my language and motor skills, so my accent has changed and I am now left-handed instead of right-handed. I am unable to speak the Jamaican accent now.”
Initially fluent in patois, Clayton also revealed she’s unable to sometimes understand the language popularly spoken in her home country.
“Based from what I gathered, I am the only person in Jamaica with the foreign accent syndrome,” she said. “The brain damage is getting worse as far as I can see. I am not always able to understand Patois any more. I have long-term effects and I have a whole new life that I have to get used to.”
Clayton, however, told Mirror Online she wants to keep her newly acquired accent.
“The doctors have offered me speech therapy so I can learn to speak patois again but I want to keep my accent because my family and friends have told me it suits my personality,” she said. “Some people say I sound like I’m from Birmingham and some say I sound like a well-spoken Jamaican – but no one has said anything negative.
“Once I feel up to it I would like to get work doing voiceovers as everyone loves my accent”
Though grateful, Clayton admitted her road to recovery has been challenging, with some setbacks along the way.
“I am still learning to walk. I cannot walk without any aid. Even turning on the bed is a struggle for me. I spent one month in the hospital and I’ve done four surgeries. My entire life has changed because I can no longer work a 9 to 5,” she told The Sunday Gleaner. “They said it would take one to two years in terms of recovery to a point that I will be able to walk like nothing happen [sic]. However, because of COVID-19 and the delay in my left femur healing, that’s now looking like three to four years.”
Clayton has set up a YouTube page to document her journey and new life.
“If at any point you have your own trauma and you feel like ‘Why me?’ and ‘God is punishing me’, He is not,” Clayton said. “He is building you up for something better … . The reason may be unclear, but eventually, you will see why it is it that you went through the trauma in order to be better at whatever results you get.”