IMAGINE waking up and finding yourself speaking in a French accent. Especially when you've always had a Somerset one.

That's what happened to Keith Petvin-Scudamore, 79, after he suffered a stroke.

"They call it Foreign Language Syndrome," said Keith, who lives in north Bournemouth. "The Somerset accent that I had for 73 years was replaced by something that sounded like a French accent. It was so surreal – it was coming out of my mouth, but didn’t feel like me."

Keith, a grandfather of two, had a stroke in June 2012 which left him initially paralysed on the right side of his body. He was unable to speak to begin with, but, as his speech slowly returned, developed Foreign Accent Syndrome.

“Having a stroke was terrifying; it was the unknown which I hated the most," he said. "After the stroke I couldn’t speak but, thankfully, I could write notes on a notepad which made sense. My body felt like it had been hit by a bus."

Keith attended speech therapy as soon as he could. "I had two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon," he said. "I was exhausted and would sometimes fall asleep during sessions. It was relentless, but my brain needed to be kick-started to produce speech again."

On the second day of being on the stroke unit, he was introduced to Leila Heydon, a Hospital Unit Visitor. "Leila was very reassuring and supportive throughout my recovery," he said. "We’re still very good friends, and I regularly attend her coffee mornings for stroke patients."

Gradually Keith's speech returned and he learned to speak more slowly, to give his brain more time to form the words.

“My Somerset accent has mostly returned, but I can still revert to a French accent for a couple of days, and I have no control over this," he said. "Recently at the doctor’s, a patient in the waiting room asked me how long I had lived in this country for! It’s sad to feel like part of you has gone, but I remain thankful that I have my speech."

Caroline Griffiths, Support Coordinator at the Stroke Association, said: “After a stroke, around one in three people like Keith 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."