A RINGWOOD mum-of-two was left speaking in a French accent after a severe stroke.

Kathy Melling, had a stroke last November and was initially unable to speak. Four days later she recovered her speech but started speaking in a completely different accent.

The 53-year-old, who used to work as an infant school teacher, developed Foreign Accent Syndrome.

She said: “No one was more shocked than I was when I started speaking with an accent. To begin with I virtually had no voice after my stroke. After four days my voice came back, but it sounded Scandinavian, and I had to force out the sounds which actually sounded quiet.

“I always remind myself that I’m so thankful to have a voice. I’m very grateful that I can still communicate and express myself. Although my accent has changed, I’m still able to communicate with others about strokes, which is really important to do.

“My stroke changed my life in an instant, and that’s why I’m really passionate to raise awareness of the condition by sharing my story with others.”

Kathy hopes to one day get her old voice back.

She said: “I’m continuing to work hard with my speech, and hope to one day get my old voice back. I’ve joined the Stroke Association’s Christchurch Peer Support Group, which has helped my confidence enormously. My husband has also created a helpful card which explains what has happened to me for times when I find myself feeling anxious or upset.”

The Stroke Association’s Lost for Words campaign aims to raise awareness of the challenges stroke survivors with communication difficulties can face, and help and support available.

Claire Whitehouse, who is a community stroke support assistant at the Stroke Association, said: “After a stroke, around one in three people like Kathy have difficulty communicating, which can be both terrifying and isolating. But with the right help and support, many stroke survivors are able to find new ways to communicate, and can rebuild their lives.

“Since Kathy has been attending our Christchurch Peer Support Group, she’s gone from strength to strength. I’m so proud of her recovery.”

More than 350,000 people in the UK have aphasia, a communication disability which can be caused by stroke.

For more information about the Lost for Words campaign go to stroke.org.uk/lostforwords.