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. Lulusez

    Everybody knows those reporters are really fembots programmed by satellite.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. Maria

    I have a question and not a comment, since I hve never had a migraine. Since she had a migrane w/ aura then did she have the heachache most people associate w/ migraines? No one has mentioned if she was in pain only about the speech issue and her not having control of that? Glad she is ok and this is interesting...You learn something new everyday...

    February 18, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • ermd

      Good question but I can tell you that most folks I've seen with this report a fairly mild headache following the event. They don't even mention it unless asked.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. ermd

    I'm an ER doctor and I specialize in acute stroke care. This was almost certainly a complex migraine from the outset. I was surprised to hear several medical experts completely ignore this diagnosis in their interviews. That being said, it was dumb of her to go home to sleep it off without a prior diagnosis of similar complex migraines. Anyone with acute neurological deficits should go straight to the ER.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • beth

      Thanks for the good advice! Too few people know anything about migraines. And what they do know is usually wrong but they give out advice like it's going out of style.

      See a neurologist!!

      February 18, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. banasy

    I have been getting migraines since I was nine. I was even hospitalized when I was ten because the doctors couldn't believe I was getting them at such a young age. Well guess what? I was! I still suffer from them. I get all of them; cluster, complex, you name it. Sometimes meds work, sometimes they don't. I am usually hydrated, but once they start, no amount of water I drink can stop them. When I get what I call my "ax crusher" migraines, I'm laid up for 2-3 days sometimes. It is what it is.

    I'm glad she's all right, and I think even Daniel Tosh would have more sense than to air something that has a medical explanation for the behavior.

    But maybe not; he *is* Daniel Tosh! (His show rocks!)

    February 18, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • beth

      I was diagnosed with them at 18 months. My doctors in a southern state not to be named told my mother that I was having fits and she needed to put me in a home. She took me to a northern hospital and I got the right diagnosis. Thank goodness. I can't imagine what my life could have been like. Now I teach at a university. Thanks, Mom.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mark

    Glad to hear she's ok. I thought the chick got the "Holy Ghost" and began speaking in tongues! =)

    February 18, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. Daniel Tosh

    I'm house grass door weather, out tree desk, but firetruck pool school. Is chair spreaker, newspaper? LOL! The apple store baseball bat, floor. Wall that laugh, sidewalk must ball. Although sky, meesh blah dwfr ksiugt, lshk yhedkf sls euf dgse eifyd opo[evi[ewwwwwwwfjv[kjriuwiu.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ben G.

    I didn't know migraine headaches had any auras associated with them. I've known epileptics that have auras - that usually means bad news.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Deborah Leeman

    I have MS and this happens to me.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. de. gordon

    That was not an aura of a migraine. She had a mild aura of the epileptic type. She basically had a partial complex seizure with a loss of cognition and slurred speech. That can be a seizure or one caused by a mild stroke.Not every mini stroke appears on an MRI. Most auras are forms of seizures not the migraine type of aura. This was a very bad one and she must get a second opinion. As much as I hate to say this she will get a larger one and will need to be placed on seizure medications

    February 18, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff

    I've suffered from migraines for 40 years. Ten years ago while driving, I slumped over with right side numbness, unable to talk, visiion was 'upside down'. Got to the ER where they did CAT scan & saw nothing. Went home w/3 days of worst headache (beyond usual one-sided migraines). Saw neurologist 2 weeks after & she said it was a 'complex migraine'. That was until she got the results of the brain MRA that she then ordered. I had suffered a TIA - small infarction seen at bottom right of brain. Only residual from this is that I sometimes forget words or leave off first letter of word when writing.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. MIke E

    I have migraines usually during big weather swings when a low pressure area is moving in rapidly. I've had the exact same symptoms – blurry vision, numbness on my finger tips and tongue, head ache, inability to form sentences. I've had this for over 20 years and it usually pops up 3 – 4 times a year. Last year I had to go to emergency with a really nasty one. I have to take Maxalt on the onset and it will minimize the symptoms but I still feel awful. When I was in journalism school I had one happen in the middle of a telephone interview and I couldn't keep going. I had to hang up and got my room mate to call back and tell them I was having a migraine. My doctor said it's very similar to a stroke except instead of having a blockage the veins or arteries are contracting likely due to weather related pressure changes. When I saw the clip of this reporter I knew exactly what was going on.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. Fromoj

    These things just happen – migrains (which I used to get real bad) or not. The brain is a very complicated thing. No doubt she's fine and now just wishing this would all go away. I'd call it an "acute synapse disorder" or something.

    I remember watching Jennine Gerafalo (sp?) do this on Letterman or Leno. When she was done they both looked bewildered and shocked, but she was fine, albeit a little embarrassed...

    Migraines suck bad. I'm sorry for those who have them. I'm so happy they are gone from my life. (loss of vision, eye pain, headache, vomiting, the list goes on). But I never had the confused speech.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rhonda T.

    I have migranes and have had the same thing happen to me. I was having a bad migrane at work at the time and was trying to tell a coworker i was going home for the day because of it. My coworker thought I was having a stroke. I knew what I was saying sounded like gibberish and my words were slurred. I even thought I was having a stroke because that was the first and only time that had happened. It only lasted for a few minutes then my speach was back to normal but the migrane grew in intensity.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. WDrad

    This is news? All women sound like that to men.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Gillian

      And you sound like a troll. Neither men or women can understand trolls.
      If you think this isn't news what are you doing going to the trouble of posting at the end of a very lengthy blog? Idiot.

      February 18, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ouch!

    If a migraine is anything like a s3x headache, I can relate. Anybody ever have one? Right in the middle, I'll get this intense pain in my forehead that makes me stop and I feel like my head is gonna explode. Usually happens when I get really worked up before. Scary.
    From what I hear, you can barely talk during a migraine. I watched my mom have a stroke, this is exactly what it looked like. Migraines cause pain, this girl doesn't even flinch. My guess is a mild stroke. She's lucky.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
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