Doctor: Grammy reporter suffered migraine, is 'back to normal'
February 17th, 2011
09:12 PM ET

Doctor: Grammy reporter suffered migraine, is 'back to normal'

A migraine - not a stroke - caused a Los Angeles television reporter to mangle her words during a live post-Grammy Awards report on Sunday night, according to the UCLA doctors who examined her in the days after the incident.

KCBS reporter Serene Branson (pictured) suffered a migraine with aura - meaning neurological symptoms that in this case included language problems - causing her to speak gibberish during her report, according to Dr. Andrew Charles, migraine expert and UCLA professor of neurology.

"She’s completely back to normal," Charles said in a telephone interview Thursday, adding that he cleared Branson to return to all activities with no limitation.

Branson's report outside the Staples Center, widely viewed on YouTube early this week before the video was taken down, sparked concerns that she had suffered a stroke.

"A very, very heavy burtation tonight," she said before continuing with incomprehensible words.

Her station said paramedics examined her at the scene but she was not hospitalized, and a colleague gave her a ride home.

Branson was seen early in the week by the chief of neurosurgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Dr. Neil Martin, and then Thursday morning by Charles, UCLA spokesman Mark Wheeler said.

A scan ruled out a stroke, eventually leading Martin and Charles to diagnose a migraine, which can present symptoms similar to a stroke, Charles said.

Branson's migraine included a headache and three types of aura - the language troubles plus distorted vision and numbness, Charles said.

"It was quite remarkable that she was actually standing and doing the (report) that she was doing, given what she was experiencing at the time," Charles said. "She was aware of what was happening and was upset about it, but there was no time to back out of what she was doing."

Charles said about 20 to 30 percent of migraine patients experience some type of aura, and those who do most commonly experience visual aura – flashing, wavy lines, or blurry vision.

Such a migraine "can be triggered by different life events, like any migraine – changes in patterns of sleep or diet or exercise or caffeine," Charles said.

Charles stressed that anyone experiencing the symptoms that Branson did should get checked immediately. "The symptoms can be indistinguishable (from that of a stroke) initially, so it's important to emphasize the need to rule that out first," he said.

Branson is expected to address the incident in an interview on KCBS Thursday night.

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Filed under: California • Health • Migraines • TV
soundoff (463 Responses)
  1. gidgetcommando

    A migraine attack is a whole-brain event. Researchers who have seen them happen with functional-MRI tests (watched the patient's brain in real-time as an attack happens) say they look like slow motion seizures. They can be predictable or unpredictable, easy to prevent or damn near impossible to prevent, depending on the patient. To you people making fun of the reporter, why don't you settle down. Migraine attacks are excruciating, frightening, and sometimes dangerous. People who get them routinely put up with pain, disability, and stigma that you can't possibly imagine.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Quilter77

    My former pastor had "cluster" migraines. Sometimes it would affect his speech. People in the church who didn't understand this thought he was drunk and eventually started rumors that he was drinking. It was a real shame because the church eventually closed down because of these horrible rumors. Sometimes people can be cruel in their ignorance. I wish Ms. Branson well.

    February 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. deborah

    I had this to happen to me, after dropping my daughter off at school one morning. I was driving and became very weak and couldn't remember where I was. I managed to pull the car, get out of the car and walk a little bit and temporary blank out on the side of the road. I was very confuse and couldn't remember where I was. Someone came along and to helped me, called 911. The paramedicas thought I was under the influence of drugs. I was taken to the hospital. This is what I was told by the sheriff department, the hospital got them involved, because they thought it was drugs. After many tests, it was found that I had low blood sugar. It was very scary situation. I never had that to happen again so far.

    February 18, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Vera

    To learn more about the Breast Cancer Summit, take a look at this link: http://www.breasthealthandhealing.com/Summit/index.html#2010Summit

    February 18, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vera

    The Breast Cancer Summit is looking to cure breast cancer by funding the breast cancer vaccine. To learn more about the Breast Cancer Summit, take a look at this link: http://www.breasthealthandhealing.com/Summit/index.html#2010Summit

    February 18, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 1drop

    if by "migraine" they mean crack smoking, then yeah, it was a migraine

    February 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Fedor

    She went full retard.

    February 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dillon

    My daughter just recently started having migraines with aura. She had complete numbness in her arm, leg and face. Then, her speech was impaired. I thought she was having a stroke. Extremely frightening. This type of disorder can lead to strokes, so care must be taken to prevent the onset.

    February 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tereesa

    I cAn relate being a migraine suffer since I was sixteen and my mother is one too. These can be so debilitating at times. I would miss work and school a lot.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Michael

    This is exactly what happeneds to me, im 31 and have he Migrane with aura for 18 years. It can come at any time,,,,, it starts with vision problems( flashing blind spot that grows and grows, numbness in one or the other hands and on face and inside mouth, and I can speak or even think in correct order.) Keep in mind all of this happens to you BEFORE THE pain even starts. And after about an hour of dealing with the aura, here comes the pain, pounding throbbing stabbing pain on one side of the head for about 6 hours. Im suprised that it has taken this long for this to happen to somebody in the news(not that I wish it on anybody) But its very real and its very seroius, and it had costed me some pretty important things in my life. Best of Luck!

    February 18, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AngelFactor

    I get migraines in their various forms and they are not something I would wish on my worst enemy, not even my ex-wife.

    What's even worse than the loss of speech and paralysis, is when you lose your vision and are blind, too. If that doesn't scare you, you may not be human.

    The only thing that can be worse than all of that is when the nausea makes you vomit. It feels like your head is exploding in sharp "rays."

    On second thought. maybe my ex-wife is worthy after what she has done....

    February 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AngelFactor

    For migraine suffers, I would like to let you know that Imitrex nasal spray is a wonder drug for migraines. Carry one with you.

    February 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hank

    I suffer from these migraines from time to time. Usually without the headache, just visual impairment. A doctor on the net reported that while doing a neck sonogram on one his patients with the same condition she had an attack. He recorded the internal carotid artery going into spasm. After the attack everything was normal again. He had treated her for 3 years and never found any cause for her symptoms until that lucky moment.

    February 20, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  14. Thomas Lipton

    im going to say it one more time. serene branson had a TIA.....TIA.....TIA. it was the exact same thing that happened to me about six years ago. TIA's do not show up for at least 6 months AFTER they occur..... on XRAYS. also the doctors should look for a hole in her heart. everyone when born HAS a hole in their heart. as they mature the hole fills in and no problems.....BUT i still have a hole in my heart.....a clot passed through the hole in my heart.....went to my brain and my language center was interrupted........jibberish came out of my mouth. went to hospital. it lasted about an hour and was placed on coumadin (2.5 LOW DOSE). here is the kicker.....i have over the years suffered from "migraine auras" they were scarey at first.....was placed on DEPEKOTE (seizure med) and they went away for about ten years. just recently they have come back. very little headache, mostly the left eye and last for 15-30 minutesiam a 61 year old male. you are a young woman and women suffer from strokes more than men. don't let them say everything is all right.....it isn't

    February 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mary from Seattle

    I'm also appalled at those who have had migraines and still lack empathy for the severity. My husband is prone to light-induced migraines, and I didn't understand how severe they could be until he had one that lasted for five days, unremitting severe pain like an ice pick. The doctors at the ER room were very understanding, administered some injections, and sent him to his physician the next day. Two days later we were back at the ER. Again the doctors were wonderful, far better than either of us had expected, and administered a different medicine that did the trick. Immitrex is his go-to rescue medicine; I didn't know there was a nasal spray out there though.

    Just to say, sometimes the ER is indeed necessary with severe migraines, first to rule out blood clots, strokes, tumors, and the like, and then to administer strong medicine to halt the migraine. We were certainly reassured of that during both of hubby's ER visits.

    March 10, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
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