Most of us enjoy learning about other cultures, and the very first thing we want to know is how to speak their language. While others are pretty quick to adopt, some are having a hard time catching up.
But for Fraser Watt, he spoke a different language in the most bizarre way possible. The Scottish man stunned physicians back in 1983 when he opened his mouth to speak in Malay — and only Malay — after waking up from a 24-hour coma.
Fraser, who is now 60 years old, was only 24 when he encountered a terrifying car accident that nearly took his life.
He spent more than a month in intensive care after his car collided with the farming vehicle on the road between St. Andrews and Dundee over three decades ago. Medics rushed to save him following the incident, but the injuries he sustained resulted in him losing almost a quarter of his brain.
Fraser could speak Malay as a child because he grew up in Borneo. His family had moved in the rugged island in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago because his father worked as a civil engineer there at that time.
“Everyone was stunned when I spoke Malaysian. So was I because, although I was fluent as a child, I hadn’t spoken Malaysian for 19 years before the crash. My mum was at my bedside so she could translate for the doctors until the end of the day when my English returned.”
The life-changing injuries to the front and back of Fraser’s brain resulted in several years of recovery, forcing him to learn how to walk again. He said he still feels painful, migraine-like headaches daily, more than 30 years after the crash.
“My memory is now permanently scrambled, but every so often an isolated memory comes to the surface for me to see. The biggest struggle, though, is because I look fine on the surface people assume I’m stupid. Or they just don’t have the patience while I struggle to recall memories or articulate thoughts.’
Other than that, I’ve learned how strong I really am and how to survive whatever comes my way.”
Fraser’s experience came to light at the opening of a new base for Edinburgh Headway, a charity group that aims to “empower and enrich the lives of adults who have survived an acquired brain injury” through rehabilitation.
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