| 8.6°C Dublin

gift of gab Young football star wakes up with twitch that developed into her speaking in Irish and French accents

Close


A young football player has told how her world was turned upside down when she woke up one morning with an unexplained physical twitch that developed into her speaking in Irish and French accents. 

Mary Henry, who plays with Hartlepool, was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) that has transformed her life, from being an independent teenager, to relying on family and friends for help.

She later suffered a range of severe symptoms including being unable to walk and talk as well as being overcome by chronic fatigue.

"It's a horrible thing to live with, I wouldn't wish it on anyone,” the 19-year-old said.

"It's incredibly frustrating. You wonder why you can't do things like you used to.

"The strange thing is nothing seems to have triggered it. It just seems to happen to some people. I've noticed it has happened to other athletes and young women."

When she woke up not long after her 19th birthday in October, she noticed a tic in her neck that she initially put down to nerves.

But the twitching became more frequent and she developed other verbal tics, including whistling and swearing that she described as frightening.

"I was so confused and also quite scared," she said. "I had no choice in what was happening.

"I couldn't stop it but I also couldn't communicate with anyone.

"I had no idea what was going on and I did not know what FND was.

"So far, no one knows or fully understands the causes of FND.

"Anyone who has spent anytime with me recently will have been subject to my expletives and accents.”

"I've got a good Irish accent now which I can't usually do. It is actually quite funny. When I first went to A&E the doctor I saw was Irish and it's since then I can do it.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

"Some words such as 'Scooby Doo' I say now in a French accent too. It's just bizarre."

The Whitley Bay teenager developed other severe symptoms of FND including leg paralysis, intermittent loss of speech, chronic fatigue, and muscle weakness.

She forced to buy a wheelchair after suddenly losing the use of her legs.

"I am likely to need months of treatment from both my physiotherapist and neuropsychology,” she revealed.

“I'm hoping I can gradually control my physical symptoms. I've accepted that I will have to deal with them for the rest of my life.

"I can now walk again which is fantastic. It was so difficult not being able to do something so simple for two months.

"I'd love to be back playing football and coaching again but I'm taking little steps at a time."

Mary is also hoping raise awareness of FND, which is relatively unknown but is in fact the second most common reason for a neurological outpatient visit after a headache/migraine.

"I want to break to stigma surrounding FND and support those people who do have it," she said.

"I'd always encourage people in a similar position to me to allow yourself to be angry or upset, but then try and get on with it.

"When you get symptoms, try not to panic because it's the worse thing you can do. Also allow people around you to help you.

"The last few months have been really tough and it has changed my life completely.

"I am now determined to make as best a recovery as possible to get my life back on track."

Mary has a GoFundMe page set up to help raise money to cover the costs of her treatment.

"As I’m not long out of school and only managing to hold down a part time job I would appreciate any donation no matter how small as it will all make a massive difference to my life and help me get back on track," she added.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy