She’s accent-uated: Port Angeles woman with odd speaking ailment featured on TV

PORT ANGELES — CindyLou Romberg, a lifetime Port Angeles resident, has been in a whirlwind of activity since her speech patterns mysteriously changed to make her sound more like a European native — and the affliction received national attention.

Romberg, 51, was diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome after beginning to speak with accents of countries she’s never been to.

The mysterious — and rare — ailment has landed her on several national media platforms.

Discovery Health contacted her first, wanting to do an episode of “Mystery ER” on her.

“I didn’t call them back at first,” Romberg said.

“I thought it was a prank, yah,” she adding, sounding momentarily Swedish.

But she was convinced it was a real offer. The episode aired on Monday night, featuring a re-enactment and interviews with Romberg.

She also received inquiries from “Entertainment Tonight,” “Good Morning America” and “Inside Edition,” among others.

Although she doesn’t know when the shows featuring her will air, she said she was up for the interviews.

The mystery began in February 2007.

Romberg had been to a chiropractor earlier in the week and after her adjustment her neck swelled up.

“I had been to that guy many times before, so I don’t know what happened,” she said.

Although the swelling went down on its own, just a few days later she went downstairs to talk to her daughter, Sadrianna, and heard herself speak gibberish, Romberg said.

Numerous medical tests ruled out a stroke or a collapsed blood vessel.

“All I could do was write things down,” she said.

“Anything I said came out gibberish.”

Eventually her speech returned — but heavily accented.

“Sometimes they say I sound German, or Swedish, or sometimes French,” Romberg said.

“But I have no control over when it happens.

“The doctors say it probably will never go away.”

Brain ‘rewired’

Her husband, Glen Romberg, said her brain had been “rewired” — an idea Romberg agrees with.

The diagnosis, although strange, soothed her worst fears.

“I’ve had three siblings die of cancer, and one who is ill right now,” she said.

“So I was relieved that it wasn’t a tumor or something.”

Romberg said her doctors suspect that her brain was damaged more than two decades ago when she was in a car crash.

“I was not wearing my seat belt, and the door came unhinged, and I cracked my head open from the back of the neck” in the 1981 Port Angeles wreck, Romberg said.

“I was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center [in Seattle] at that time.”

Years of therapy finally paid off, but the Foreign Accent Syndrome could be a lagging effect of the wreck, Romberg said.

Some words inaccessible

Romberg also struggles with certain words.

For example, her sister Phyllis’ name comes out “Sheba.”

“I finally told her that I will just call her that from now on,” Romberg said.

“That is her new name to me.”

Herb Woods — Romberg’s ex-husband and, along with his wife, Nancy, a friend — joined the Rombergs at their home to watch the episode of Mystery ER.

Woods and Romberg were married when she was in the 1981 wreck, and he flew with her in the Coast Guard helicopter to the hospital.

Show did a good job

Both Woods and Romberg think that the show presented the facts well.

“They got everything documented just about correct,” Romberg said.

Woods said he only had one complaint on the show.

“The guy they got to play me for the re-enactments was a little big bigger than I am,” he said.

“But they did a really good job.”

Woods said he noticed the accent comes and goes, depending on Romberg’s mood.

“Sometimes when she gets stressed out, it gets worse and then things just come out as gibberish,” he said.

“But when she gets angry, there are times that she sounds just like the old CindyLou.”

__________

Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at paige.dickerson@peninsuladailynews.com.

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