Australian Man Wakes Up From Coma Speaking Perfect Chinese Instead Of English

Australian Man Wakes Up From Coma Speaking Perfect Chinese Instead Of English

Two years ago Ben McMahon, pictured above, woke up from a coma more than a week after a horrific car crash that almost claimed his life only being able to speak Mandarin.

The 22-year-old remembers how he woke up and saw a nurse who looked Asian standing by his bed and said to her 'Excuse me nurse, I feel really sore here' in Chinese. He then asked the nurse for a piece of paper and pen and he wrote on it in Mandarin: 'I love my mum, I love my dad, I will recover.' His sudden new-found language skills baffled his doctors as well as his parents.

Ben's father, Mark, and his mother were told it would be a miracle if their son survived.

'We got the call from the hospital and [the hospital staff member] was saying "Oh Mark, look I just wanted to ring and let you know that Ben's actually started to come out of the coma"...and she said, “I don’t know how to say this...he's speaking Mandarin',"
Mark told Channel 10's The Project.
'Neither of us can speak Mandarin so we just nodded but deep down quite concerned about what’s going on.'

Despite taking Mandarin at school, Ben had never been fluent at the language.
'I wasn’t consciously thinking I was speaking Mandarin, it was what just came out and it was what was most natural to me,'
he said. It took Ben two or three more days to recall how to speak English.

But what happened to Ben is not the first of its kind. DailyMail reports that in 2010, a 13-year-old Croatian girl woke up from coma to find out it had replaced her fluency in her native language with speaking German. More recently, a U.S. navy veteran was found unconscious in a motel room and had no recollection of who he was and spoke fluent Swedish in July 2013.

But a Queensland Brain Institute neuroscientist thinks he might have an explanation about what happened to Ben. Dr Pankaj Sah said the brain was made up of different circuits - which assist in language, breathing, speaking and thinking - similar to electronic circuits.

According to him, what possibly happened to Ben was that the parts of the brain that recalled English were damaged in the crash and those that retained Mandarin were activated when the 22-year-old woke up from his coma.

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Posted By kellychi On 11:03 Tue, 02 Sep 2014

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