A 16-year-old in Georgia has made headlines this week after waking up from a coma speaking fluent Spanish.
Rueben Nsemoh is a native English speaker who knew some basic Spanish before he suffered a concussion during a soccer game, but when he woke up from the injury, he was able to speak Spanish “like a native”and struggled with English.
“It was weird,” Rueben added. “It was not scary at all. I actually liked it a lot. It was really unique to me.”
“It started flowing out,” the teen told TIME on Monday. “I felt like it was like second nature for me. I wasn’t speaking my English right, and every time I tried to speak it I would have a seizure.”
He was injured in a soccer game
Rueben Nsemoh was playing soccer last month for an elite Gwinnett County national team when he dived for a loose ball and another player mistakenly kicked him on the right side of his head.
The Georgia teen was airlifted to Atlanta Medical Center, where he spent several days in a coma.
Days after being treated in the intensive care unit, Rueben finally started stirring again. He began moving his hand and gesturing for food. And then he blurted out: “Tengo hambre,” or “I am hungry” in Spanish.
“I was very shocked. That’s something he’s never done before. When he got up and he started speaking Spanish, I was confused,” said Nsemoh, a 54-year-old high school teacher who is from Nigeria.
Rueben says he could only recite just a few phrases in Spanish before his accident.
The only ways he had heard Spanish were from his brother, who had previously studied in Spain, and his Spanish-speaking teammates.
In the weeks since he’s slowly been regaining his ability to speak English, and his Spanish skills are fading, but doctors are struggling to explain exactly what happened.