Your Health October 24, 2013 Foreign Accent Syndrome - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Your Health October 24, 2013 Foreign Accent Syndrome

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Birmingham, AL -

      Ever heard of Foreign Accent Syndrome?
       It's an extremely rare condition that affects more than a person's speech.
      Two local women talk with ABC 33/40'S News Anchor Linda Mays about how Foreign Accent Syndrome robbed them and their families of life as they knew it.   Here's their story.


     54 year old Karen Mullinix,   is a southern woman.
         Though, she doesn't sound like it, now.

  Mullinix says, "They say, how do you say this in your language? Oh, I say, this is a cart. These groceries for eat, you know."

      Born in Mississippi, a resident of Anniston, Mullinix  hasn't always talked with a sort of Arabic, Italian, or German accent.
     About eight years ago she was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition.
     Mullinix suffers from what's called... Foreign Accent Syndrome.

    Mullinix says, "When you have this syndrome, it is, it change everything. Your life is never same. You do not be the person before."

     It may sound bizarre, her family remembers, she was bitten by a black spider one night.
     When she woke up, she couldn't talk.

    Mullinix says, "I break out in rash all over, and I start having difficulty breathing... At the hospital because the speech is no good already, it's going in and out. I try to tell them what is going on. They did not understand. They send me home."

    It's believed the spider bite affected her brain function.
     Mullinix showed us medical documents dating back to 2007 and 2008.
     Her neurologists... noting what has happened to her and the difficulty she's had to endure including impaired speech and memory loss.

     She didn't even remember her children or husband of more than 30 years.

  Her husband, Max Mullinix says, "I had to show her marriage license and stuff, several times. And she say we're not married you know. I don't know you and stuff. I'd get them and show her the pictures of the wedding and marriage license..and then she's alright. But it happens about every six or eight months."
 
      Experts say Foreign Accent Syndrome is a neurological condition  characterized by an injury to the brain in the part that controls speech.
       It can happened in some such cases of severe stroke, paraplegic migraines, or serious head injury.
    
     Mullinix's mission is to lend support to other people battling FAS, like 43 year old Jeanie Atkins.
     One doctor believes a mini stroke led to FAS in Atkins in April this year.
     Like other people with syndrome, she found herself ridicule, rejected and isolated.

 Jeanie Atkins says, "I was so alone before I met her . My family doesn't understand it. My friends are supportive. But, you need someone that understands you.  The accent I can live with; but, FAS, what it means for my life.. it's memory loss, vertigo, imbalance; it's a compromised immune system."
     Atkins and Mullinix agree that the devastating affects of FAS go beyond the individual with it.
     While people are often fascinated with the way, they speak.
     Mullinix says there's no known cure and it's something she wouldn't wish on anyone.
 
    Jeanie Atkins, who speaks with a British accent, is from Bluff Park, now lives in Oxford.  
     Mullinix says, there are less than 100 known cases of Foreign Accent Syndrome in the world.

     Karen Mullinx helps lead or is apart of three international support groups on Facebook.
     One is an open group.  Go to Foreign Accent Awareness.
    Members are from around the world.
    
    She has close ties with two experts on FAS, Dr. Nick Miller in London and Dr. Jack Ryalls In Florida.  
    They have written a book called Foreign Accent Syndrome which Karen Mullinix says, she and other people with FAS have contributed to.

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