A Wirral man has revealed how he lost his Scouse accent after suffering a stroke, saying he initially looked like a “robot”.
Dominic, 25, was working as a mechanic at a Jaguar Land Rover last summer when he started noticing his mood change, realizing that he was starting to explode, get frustrated and become angry or upset.
Having taken upon himself the stress of buying and redecorating his first house, he suddenly woke up in August and began to repeat the words, while his right side became numb and his speech became slurred.
His girlfriend Laura realized he was having a stroke and called an ambulance. When doctors were in the hospital, they discovered that the cause was an arteriovenous malformation of the brain – a tangle of abnormal and poorly developed blood vessels that is extremely rare and affects only one percent of the population.
Dominic, who is from Wallace, told the charity Brain: “When the stroke happened, I thought I was going to die.
“I closed my eyes and lost consciousness, I have no memories of that time but I was unconscious.
“When I woke up a week later, I realized that the right side of my body wouldn’t move, and I was in the intensive care unit.
“I couldn’t walk or talk at all. My friends and family were really shocked because I was so young, they didn’t expect it.
When people think of strokes, they think of an elderly person.
“Even among young stroke survivors, there are people in their 60s who think they are too young to have a stroke.”
Dominic’s mood swings were caused by the AVM bursting and healing multiple times, in turn causing tiny clots in a part of his brain that regulates emotions.
After undergoing a nine-hour operation to remove the AVM, doctors found that the left side of Dominic’s brain had been damaged by the stroke, meaning he could not speak or use the right side of his body.
He was diagnosed with aphasia, a condition that causes people to struggle to produce words and sounds and recover language.
Dominic said, “When I first woke up in the hospital, I couldn’t speak at all. My speech therapist asked me to read the alphabet and I realized I couldn’t.”
“But the singing part of my brain wasn’t damaged. Two weeks after the surgery I couldn’t speak at all, but I could sing Fly Me To The Moon.”
He was able to sing a Frank Sinatra song because a different part of the brain controls the music and singing of the affected part.
He continued, “When I realized I could sing, I hoped that would mean that I would eventually be able to speak again.
“When I started speaking again, I didn’t have a Merseyside accent anymore. I sounded like a robot or Siri.”
“It’s a very strange feeling when you wake up one day with a different voice. I felt like I had lost a part of my identity – but everyone was really happy that I was speaking.
“After the stroke, my speech was very slow and stressful and my language was limited to small words.
“People often didn’t know where to look and what to say, they had good intentions but would interrupt or talk to me, or assume I had a learning disability.
“The Brain Charity’s speech and language therapist helped me break down long words into syllables.
“I can now pronounce more words—and slowly but surely, my accent is beginning to return.
“Aphasia is not the end of your life. If someone you know has aphasia, give them time to talk. For me, I just wanted to be treated the way I was before.”
While he still has a long way to go, he credits neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to “rewire” and create new neural pathways after injury or damage — with the progress he’s made so far.
Dominic said, “Before the stroke, I was really going to the gym. Now, having my movement affected is the hardest I can find.
“But when I woke up and realized I couldn’t move this side of my body, I knew it was a waste of time and feeling sad about what had happened, how young I was having a stroke and how it changed my life.”
About 7 months after his recovery, Dominic was offered free speech and language therapy (SALT) through The Brain Charity.
He added: “Brain injuries are very diverse – they are widespread and can affect people in many ways, depending on which part of the brain is affected.
“Charities like The Brain Charity are essential to keep you motivated and informed, because it can be all too easy to be like ‘this is it’ and give up.
“I definitely experienced it when I was out of the hospital, but working with The Brain Charity motivated me to keep going.”