Stroke sees Englishman wake up speaking Welsh

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An 81-year-old man from Somerset who had a stroke woke up speaking Welsh.

Alun Morgan was taken ill while he was at his home in Bath. A few days later, he was speaking the language he had not spoken since childhood.

"This was strange because I'd not lived in Wales since I was evacuated there during the war," he said.

Mr Morgan was diagnosed with aphasia, a condition which affects a person's ability to communicate.

It can affect stroke survivors in different ways, from speaking and reading to writing and understanding.

Mr Morgan's wife Yvonne had rushed him to hospital when she noticed he was not responding to anything.

He said: "I don't remember much of the first four days.

"Then, when I did speak, I was talking away in Welsh.

Communicating with people with aphasia

  • Get their attention
  • Reduce background noise
  • Allow time to understand and respond
  • Check for a yes/no response
  • Try speech, writing, hand gestures, drawing or facial expressions. If one does not work, try something different

Advice from the Stroke Association

"Fortunately my wife was there and knew what I was saying and she had to translate it all. I'd completely forgotten English.

"Then, about two or three days later, back came all the English, so I don't know where that had hidden."

Mr Morgan said he had spoken "a bit of both" languages as a child.

"We were London Welsh and I learned a bit of Welsh when I was in London. Then, when I was evacuated to Wales during the war, we spoke it virtually all the time because my aunt didn't speak much English, so I had to pick it up very quickly."

'Odd affair'

He lived in Aberaeron, in mid Wales, for four years from the age of nine.

Mr Morgan said he did not initially think anything was amiss after the stroke.

"I just spoke away. It wasn't until my wife told me what was happening I expressed some surprise.

"I think I got up two or three days later and spoke English again, so it was a very odd affair.

"I've come on a lot better now. I've still got a few problems, mainly tied in with my speech."

Mr Morgan said his recovery was helped by a Stroke Association support group.

"Meeting lots of people at the communication support service and sharing experiences with people who understand aphasia has made a huge difference," he said.

"I'm not worried about their reaction or scared that the words just wont come out when I try to speak. This means I can enjoy life a lot more."

'Be taken away'

Chris Clark, UK director of the Stroke Association's life after stroke services, said: "Aphasia has a massive impact on stroke survivors' lives. People are left feeling frustrated and lonely, particularly at this time of year.

"We know that stroke survivors with aphasia want to be better understood by health and social care professionals and their communities, so they can have the confidence to interact with people."

Prof Pam Enderby, from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, said: "A stroke can happen in an instant to anyone of any age.

"Being unable to communicate as a result of a stroke impacts on stroke survivors' involvement in family life, education, work and their community.

"The simplest everyday tasks, such as talking to friends, ordering a coffee or saying Merry Christmas, can suddenly be taken away."

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