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. Guest

    I am assuming that Sarah Palin must be living with a migraine 24/7....poor woman.

    February 18, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tesch

    Been there. Had one of these ever other day for 2 weeks straight. Spent a night in the ICU. Not awesome.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kathy

    I'm a 20+ year migraine sufferer, and I can tell you, if this woman was having a migraine she would not have been able to get to the awards at all, let alone to do a report. A severe migraine leaves you completely incapacitated. A migraine "with aura" makes it impossible to look at bright lights. I agree with the others who have said a second opinion is in order.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • beth

      No. You can have this type of migraine and not have pain. They are rare but they happen. I too am a migraine sufferer and they take me out. But I have had this type and with pain. My neurologist has explained this to me. It mimics a stroke. She's probably got a very good diagnosis. Rare in an ER.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  4. Chris Cook

    she was on something

    February 18, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rufus

    Blondes rarely know what to do with their mouths, anyway.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chris

    I was also diagnosed with "migraine with accompianment" after 10 years of migraines with auras and then a sudden episode of right side paralysis. When the paramedics arrived I couldn't answer simple questions like my name, the date – though I KNEW exactly what I wanted to say, the words didn't come out correctly. At 28 years old – it was terrifying. I recovered from the paralysis after about a week, but the episodes of aphasia continued to occur and with more frequency. After spending a week in a hospital in a headache test lab, hooked up to an EEG, I was diagnosed with simple partial seizures. I dealt with the episodes for 6 years, then finally found a doctor willing to listen, spent 1 week hooked up to a monitor, got the right meds and have been episode free for 4 years. Even my migraines are better – I only get a 3 or 4 a year instead of a couple a month! So, yes – it could be migraine or it could be something else.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. jackson

    here's the vid:

    February 18, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sadie

    I experience aura migraines several times a year. Symptoms of numbness in my hands and face, slurred speech and wavy lines, followed by an intense headache. The first time this happend to me, I thought I was having a stroke. Definitely an aura migraine.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. simon

    some of the comments are not very nice.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. Carla Showell-Lee

    Did anyone see Grey's Anatomy last night? They had a storyline that included a guy who experienced a migraine but it eventually led to a full blown stroke. However, he was in that golden hour and they handled it in time. Sometimes that show can be very true to life and educational. They asked him to raise his arms, smile and repeat a few words. It was obvious he was having a stroke. He had difficulty doing all three. That reporter should really pay attention to her body and look at her level of stress. I'm a reporter and anchor and I know that job is very demanding.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. Helen Kemp

    Yep, that's a migraine. Get them often but have gotten help from a neurologist. If you get migraines, see a doc. There is a lot they can do to help.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. matt

    I get a migraine every 2 months or so with visuals. I take oxycotin 80's when I get them. Makes me high as a kite but works pretty good. Naproxin works awsome too and its a non-narcotic. I reccomend naproxen.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. Josh
    theres all the evidence there. All the stuff about her going to the hospital... fake coverups stories and lies

    February 18, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. Leo

    I've seen this before in my relatives. It's a scary situation the first time you experience it because you have no clue what is going on. Migraines can vary significantly from person to person. Sporadic or familial hemiplegic migraines will cause exactly what happened to that reporter. I would recommend she wear a medical alert bracelet in the event it happens again so that the doctors in the ER will know what it is and how to treat it. The good thing is that cognitive functions are not impaired during these types of headaches, so even though you are in pain, you can still drive or walk if you absolutely have too.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. meghan

    i have mixed feelings... one – i have experience these same symptoms during a migraine – so i know it can happen. two – i have never seen more incompetent MDs as when i visited UCLA medical center a few times in the past. hopefully they are correct in her case...

    February 18, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
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