A Georgia teenager who suffered a life-threatening head injury last month while playing soccer awoke from a coma speaking fluent Spanish for the first time in his life.
Rueben Nsemoh, 16, originally from Nigeria, shocked family members and doctors when he opened his eyes after a three-day coma and began uttering sentences in Spanish, despite having known only a few words before his accident.
“It started flowing out. I felt like it was like second nature for me. I wasn’t speaking my English right, and every time I tried to speak it I would have a seizure. It was weird. It was not scary at all. I actually liked it a lot. It was really unique to me,” the teen told TIME on Monday.
Another teenager accidentally kicked Rueben on the right side of his head during a game on Sept. 24 after Rueben dove for a loose ball. The aspiring professional soccer player, suffered a severe concussion, went into shock and had to be airlifted to a hospital, according to his mother, Dorah Nsemoh.
Days after being treated in the intensive care unit, Rueben finally started stirring again. He began moving his hand and gesturing for food. And then he blurted out: “Tengo hambre,” or “I am hungry” in Spanish.
Doctors have not told the family why Rueben woke up speaking perfect Spanish, although they have sought consultation with a neurologist, but a similar case was diagnosed as foreign accent syndrome, a very rare condition in which people speak with a different accent, usually after head trauma or stroke, according to CNN.
Rueben says he could recite just a few phrases in Spanish before his accident. The only ways he had heard Spanish were from his brother, who had previously studied in Spain, and his Spanish-speaking teammates.
In the weeks after the accident, Rueben gradually recovered the ability to speak English, and now he speaks both languages fluently, although he says the Spanish has begun to fade.