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. SusieQ

    For you people that suffer from this or know about it; is Migraine with aura another word for seizures?

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

      No. Though my neurologist says that some of the latest thinking on migraines is that they may be related to seizures.

      Aura is seeing flashing lights, bright or dark spots, sometimes shapes, or any other kind of visual phenomenon that precedes your migraine. For instance, in one type of migraine that I have I see a shining line sort of like one that used to go through old tv screens. Remember those? Then, when the migraine is about to hit, it arcs downward on both sides. On another type of migraine I get tunnel vision in my left eye. Another type I see dark spots as if I had been staring at the sun. I think most people only have one or two types of aura but I, unfortunately, have different types of migraine. I've also had them since I was a toddler. They run in my family on both sides.

      I hope that helps.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. Josh
    theres all the evidence there. .All the stuff about her going to the hospital... fake coverups stories and lies

    February 18, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. maxhedroom

    Her Aunt Flo was in town for the week.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. Marie MD

    I suffered from migraines earlier in my life. If her migraine had been that bad she probably wouldn't have been able to stand much less have that camera light shine in her eyes!!!
    I couldn't believe it when I heard about it this morning.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • beth

      Complex migraines may or may not be accompanied by pain. If you're an MD, look it up.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    I had one of these incidents last May, and to say it was terrifying is an understatement. Unlike some, however, mine wasn't accompanied with a headache. After a night in the hospital and zillions of tests, mine was diagnosed as a "silent migraine".

    February 18, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. Juanita

    I knew that was a migraine issue as soon as I saw it. Have had it happen to me too many times. There is no controlling it, it's just there! Sad it had to happen to this gal at the time it did. Sure hope she doesn't lose her job over it. She has a very stressful job which can be a trigger for migraines.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. tankrothchild

    It was brought to our attention that the T-120342-04 surrogate experienced a slight "bug." We have uploaded a patch update and the glitch has been corrected.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. Caryn

    This has happened to me twice in 25 years of migraines. Once in front of a client where I couldn't describe an excel spreadsheet in front of us. I just couldn't find the words for "spreadsheet", "row", or "column". By the time I left I thought my head was going to explode.
    The second time my husband and I were having a conversation about my son, and instead of saying his name I kept saying, "that guy", when he questioned me I said, "you know, that guy". I just couldn't speak his name no matter how hard I tried, it was almost like I knew his name, but didn't know the way to articulate it.

    Really scary and each time I had the migraine of my life. Must be really tough if you are a reporter or in the public eye.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. MannyHM

    The same way that muscle can go into spasm, the blood vessels supplying that part of the brain for speech can also go into spasm. That's one of the types of migraine. I'm happy that she's fully recovered and that she'll be prepared next time it happens.

    February 18, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. beth

    I have complex migraines. When I saw this on the web, I immediately wondered if that is what she was suffering. The first one is really scary. You think you're having a stroke. After you know what it is it's a bit easier, you just have to get medicine or get through it. However, it can scare your coworkers!

    February 18, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dino

    I think it's pretty irresponsible of the station not to take her directly to the emergency room. How sad would it have been if something more would have happened because they didn't act quicker. Those paramedics are idiots not to have taken her in.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. dogadopter

    I was wondering if she was having a migraine as the same thing happens to me and that is how I know that I am going to get a migraine. Looks like it happens to a lot of us. Was just watching the Today show when their medical expert was talking about this and said that the reporter was now in an elite group of migraine sufferers who experience this. Must be a lot of us in this elite group. Wish the media wouldn't over react to things. It is kind of scary but is controllable with meds. I get migraines with those symptoms and other nasty things every time the weather changes so I am used to them.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. MeganL

    I've suffered from severe migraines since I was in the third grade (with aura's, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, etc) and I had a complex migraine while I was in high school. Once side of my face went numb and the hand on that same side and I couldn't stop vomiting (more than the usual vomiting associated with my migraines). I was rushed to the ER and had a brain scan. It was quite scary because it is a lot like a stroke. I'm glad this reporter is ok. I hope people see that migraines are so much more than just headaches.

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

      I agree... they really are much more than a headache. And it's tough to understand unless you've had one. I can't go to work or do anything really when I get one. Just gotta lay in bed, turn of all lights and sound, and hope you can find the old bottle of pain killers you had from an injury to hopefully get you to the point of sleeping, so you don't have to be awake for those hours of sheer hell.

      February 18, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. News 5 Reporter

    A migraine? LOL!

    It was a hangover after the paryting all the reporters did at the Grammy awards celebration.

    February 18, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • scribble

      hey dog as* the first thing they do when you go to the hospital for this is check for drugs. you are stupid stupid stupid

      February 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. me

    was she given a drug test? you know la-la land...

    February 18, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
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