Woman Claims Maryland Fall Accident Left Her with a Russian Accent

Robin Vanderlip says she suffers from Foreign Accent Syndrome because she was injured in a Maryland fall accident three years ago. The 42-year-old says that because a handrail at the conference center in Chevy Chase was faulty, she fell backwards down a staircase and hit her head.

Vanderlip, who is American, claims that because of her head injury, she had a stroke and now can only speak with a Russian accent. She also suffers from fatigue and memory problems.

The single mother of two is seeking over $1 million in Maryland personal injury compensation from the National 4-H Council. Meantime, she continues to undergo treatment at the University of Maryland and the National Institutes of Health. Vanderlip says that her daughter is embarrassed by her foreign accent.

Foreign Accent Syndrome

This rare brain disorder causes people to speak with an accent that sounds different from their native tongue and can be triggered by a brain trauma. According to ABC News, one woman, CindyLou Romberg, was diagnosed with FAS 15 years after she fell out of a moving truck and sustained a depressed skull. She recovered from her serious brain injury and could speak normally until in 2006 when she went to see a chiropractor and lost her voice for two days.

When Romberg’s voice returned, her American accent had disappeared and she could only speak English with a foreign accent. According to neuroscientist Julius Fridriksson, Romberg may have experienced decreased blood supply to the brain during manipulation, which could have resulted in FAS.

The first case of FAS was reported during World War II and involved a Norwegian woman who woke up from a coma with a German accent after she got hit in the head by shrapnel. Her countrymen alienated her because of her accent.

Woman says fall changed her accent, The Washington Post, May 24, 2010
US woman with Russian accent suffers from ‘Foreign Accent Syndrome’, UK Telegraph, May 30, 2010
Foreign Accent Syndrome Gives Sufferers an International Sound, ABC/Good Morning America, November 13, 2008

Related Web Resource:

Foreign Accent Syndrome

National 4-H Council

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