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03 Jan 13 Can a Garbled Text Message Save Your Life?

With textspeak becoming increasingly popular, and teenagers making it even more confusing by adding extra letters to some words, dropping letters from others, and basically make a complete mess of the English language, it can be difficult to imagine how a garbled text message could possibly save a life. However, for a 25-year-old pregnant woman, her confusing text messages to her husband actually did save her life. When the woman started texting seemingly random strings of words in response to her husband’s questions about her due date, her husband worried that something was up and sent medical assistance. Turns out the woman was having a stroke.

Strokes can cause a wide range of unusual behavioral symptoms in patients, but one of the most common issues is the inability to properly communicate. The symptom is called dysphagia. Basically, during a brain injury such as a stroke or traumatic blow to the head, the brain loses the ability to send proper messages to the area that controls speech. The victim can speak, but the words that come out typically make no sense to anyone else. Often, the victim doesn’t even know that he’s not speaking normally. The symptom affects the victim’s writing abilities as well.

Researchers are calling the new variation of the symptom “dystextia.” While it will be much more difficult to determine if someone is having a stroke based on their lack of texting ability, it can still offer valuable insight for those who know the sender well. For example, if your spouse refuses to resort to “text speak” and typically types out her messages carefully and with proper grammar, but suddenly starts sending a message filled with strange and uncharacteristic words or errors, it is reasonable to assume that something may be going on. Perhaps that something is as simple as her trying to multitask while writing a frantic message to pick up milk on the way home, but it could theoretically indicate something far more serious as well.

Of course, it isn’t really a good idea to start calling an ambulance every time you get a misspelled text. The smarter thing to do is to try and get in touch with the person over the phone and further assess their need for immediate medical attention based on their speech pattern itself. Researchers also warn that features like autocorrect can make anyone sound a bit off their rocker. Indeed, there are entire websites devoted to posting the random strange things that come out of autocorrect.

Those who are at risk for brain injuries may be doing themselves a service by turning off the feature. In fact, the whole world would be doing themselves a service by simply learning how to spell properly and getting rid of autocorrect entirely! It could save your life one day, even if it means losing a widely popular source of entertainment.

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