Kids have you ever had found yourself waking up from a coma believing yourself to be a Hollywood mega star with a new found ability to speak a foreign tongue? Rory Curtis of Redditch, Worcestershire has and how…
Prior to falling into a coma, British footballer Rory Curtis had been driving along on the M42 near Tamworth, Staffordshire when his van flipped over and was hit by 5 other vehicles in August 2012.
Miraculously the footballer would survive the crash, suffering a serious brain injury and a broken pelvis.
Induced into a coma by doctors, Rory Curtis would eventually come round six days later only to shock tending nurses when he started speaking fluent French, despite only having a basic grasp of the language in school, some 12 years ago.
Apart from speaking fluent French, Curtis would also come to believe himself to legitimately be Oscar winning actor Matthew McConaughey, telling he did not recognize himself in the mirror.
Told the semi pro footballer: ‘I cannot remember much but I know in my head I thought I was Matthew McConaughey,’
‘When I went to the toilet I went to look in the mirror and I was shocked because I didn’t look like him, I didn’t know what I was looking at.
‘Then slowly over time it eventually clicked and I thought ‘he is an actor, what am I on about?
‘But at times I was in hospital thinking I can’t wait to get out of here and back to filming movies.
‘I was convinced I was him and that I had his good looks as well – I know it was hopeful thinking really.’
Doctors at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital found our collective hero had suffered a multifocal intracranial brain haemorrhage, which meant his blood vessels had burst and blood was leaking into his brain.
He left the hospital in November 2012 no longer believing he was McConaughey, but still able to speak in fluent French – a skill he still retains two years on.
Told Rory Curtis: ‘I didn’t even do French at GCSE so haven’t studied it since Year 9 – then all of a sudden I’m fluent in it,’
‘I can’t explain how it happened. It’s incredible really. I don’t remember coming round but my family said one of the nurses was from Africa and spoke French and I was having conversations with her.
‘I was just casually chatting away about how I was feeling in this perfect French accent.
‘My mum and dad were stunned when they got to hospital and the nurse asked them what side of the family was French.
‘And then I was sitting there spouting a foreign language from my hospital bed acting all French in their sort of arrogant yet sophisticated way. It wasn’t me at all.
‘I wasn’t really that good at it at school, so I don’t how my brain has managed to do what is has. I don’t know how I know it – I just do.’
But it gets better.
Rory would also come to believe he was 12 or 14-years-old and would cry when his parents left the hospital.
‘I’d ask Mum if she’d fed our dog but he’d died three or four years before. As soon as she said that I cried, too. Then my memory clicked in and I thought, ‘Oh yeah, what was that all about?’
‘I remember Mum helping me to the toilet and I couldn’t believe who I was looking at when I saw myself in a mirror. I had a scar on my right temple and that side of my hair had been shaved off.
‘I didn’t realise until then that I’d had a brain injury. I just thought I was there for a broken hip and elbow.’
So complex were Rory Curtis’ brain injuries he had to undergo many psychological tests.
Explains Curtis: ‘They’d ask me to do simple things like draw a line from A to B and I’d be thinking, ‘Are you serious?’ Then I’d find it really difficult,’
‘It was like my brain was playing catch-up with my hand.’
The footballer was treated with an experimental drug after his family were approached by the National Institute for Health Research Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre.
By the Rory Curtis was only the second person in the UK to have the treatment – which drew upon the Ministry of Defence’s expertise with injured soldiers.
His family was warned that everyday activities such as getting dressed would be difficult and that he would struggle with short-term memory.
That said, Rory Curtis would learn to walk again in just two months, even getting back in the football squad along with getting a job as a barber.
Reiterated the footballer who is convinced his recovery is down to the experimental drug:
‘I feel it made a difference to me and because I don’t remember the crash, it doesn’t feel like I’ve had a brain injury. Apart from obviously being able to now speak French.
‘The accident changed my outlook on life. I can’t leave the house now without telling everyone I love them and giving them a hug.
‘I know with a click of your fingers, it could all be over, because life is fragile. There’s no point in wasting any time.’
Adds the footballer’s mother Vera, 57: ‘He is so lucky to be alive. We thought we would lose him. Then all of a sudden he wakes up and he’s speaking French.
‘This nurse was from Africa and spoke French – she asked us what side of the family was from France, as his accent was so good.
‘Well I told her none of us. She not believe it. The brain really is an incredible thing, nobody has quite been able to explain why it has happened.’
Luke Griggs, a spokesperson for brain injury association Headway offered the following: ‘Waking from a coma is not how it’s often portrayed in the movies.
‘It can be a very gradual process, with the patient suffering bouts of confusion and disorientation as the brain tries to recover some functionality.
‘After a coma, during a period known as post-traumatic amnesia (PTA), the patient’s behaviour may well be restless, disinhibited and agitated for example, with uncharacteristic behaviour not uncommon.
‘While different parts of our brain are responsible for different things, all parts of the brain are interconnected. Damage to one part of the brain can lead to increased activity in other parts of the brain, which can sometimes result in surprising and unexpected effects.
‘The reality for most, however, is that the recovery journey from a brain injury can arduous and last a lifetime with patients often faced with having to relearn the most basic of life skills.’
At the very least Rory Curtis can now claim he was a Hollywood action star even for a short spell, before he too realized that there are some limits to one’s mind and brain. Or are there?