Oregon Woman's Bizarre New Accent

Oregon Woman's Bizarre New Accent

When you hear 56-year-old Karen Butler speak, you'd assume she's from Ireland or England.

But Karen's never been to the British Isles or Europe. Born and raised in Oregon, Karen still lives in the Western state today.

"When I said a word…[people] say 'what did you say?' You have to repeat it a couple of times, but people catch on," she said.

So where did this mom of five get her strange accent?

The cause is a bizarre condition known as foreign accent syndrome. A year and a half ago, Karen went to a dental office for oral surgery. After routine sedation, she woke up with an accent.

Dr. Ben Emanuel, who is not treating Karen, is a neurologist at the University of Southern California university hospital.

"Foreign accent syndrome is exceedingly rare," he said, "It comes about as a result of injury to the brain, for whatever reason. It could be traumatic brain injury, it could be an ischemic stoke, there've been case reports associated with tumors, multiple sclerosis."

Even Karen's daughters have trouble understanding her.

"She'll say something and we have no idea what she's trying to refer to," one daughter said.

Her condition has also caused confusion in her work as a tax consultant. Over the phone, clients don't recognize her!

Karen says she's the same person she's always been, but wishes she could sound like her old self again.

"Everything's fine, there's nothing wrong with me. There's nothing wrong with me except for the voice. It's not mine," she said.

Karen still goes to the same dentist, and says she doesn't blame him for what happened.