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. Roofie Colada

    Da bomb... .

    February 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brad B

    I have had these for many many Years. She may hjave started her work before the symptoms started. Stress is s trigger for me. I went to a neurologist, got an EEG, discovered that I have been having many small seizures. She put me on Gabapentin (a seizure drug). It has only been a couple of weeks, but I feel a lot better and haven't had any migraines since. I hope the effect lasts. I had gotten to the point that my life was one continuous migraine.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chicken Little

      I also take gabapentin. My doctor started me on it for fibromyalgia but recently upped the dosage to try to prevent migraines that were lasting for days and days.The difference has been a miracle for me – very few migraines and they are much easier to control. I've never had an aura but I am super, super sound sensitive and have garbled my words in addition to not being able to t think straight.

      I had severe headaches for several months before I saw a neurologist who diagnosed the migraine (my fault for not going to the doctor sooner – I was stubborn). If the reporter had never consulted a doctor or if this was her first one, I can totally see how she would try to make it through the situation.

      I hope she finds a "rescue" medication that controls them for her. Migraines can be so disruptive to your personal and professional life.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kim

    We call it "Migraine Brain" at our house. I hope she gets an MRI to rule out degenerative migraines that can cause brain lesions. That's rough–and frightening.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tim

    I have these same migraines, and it's horrific to experience. One side of my body goes numb, or at least some extremities (arm, leg, hand, foot, throat, roof of mouth, tongue, etc.), I can't remember how to speak or even think of a word or phrase in my own thoughts to try and speak out loud, words (text) may as well be leaves on a tree, and you're unable to communicate, etc. It's just like a stroke with the symptoms, yet you're completely aware and alert the entire time (yet you feel like you've almost left your body (it's out of your control and you're along for the ride)). Any noise feels like atomics bombs exploding in your head and a dim light is like looking into the sun if it were 10,000 times more bright than it is. Luckily, after a few hours, or maybe nearly a day, you are much better, and after a few days (maybe a week or a little more) you're back to normal. I have these happen every 6 months to 3 or 4 years, with 3 years being the average. I've only had about 6 or so of these, but every time it feels like an emergency situation. I have to go to the ER and they give me a shot of morphine to put me out, because dealing with this feels impossible.

    Notice I didn't mention the pain? It's incredible pain, but with the other symptoms, the last thing on my mind is the pain. I've finally gotten a prescription for 10 Norco pills, that I have in my house, in case I ever get the signs of it, so I don't have to go to the ER. I hope to God those pills (1 or 2 total) will put me out, and fast, because it's truly frightening to experience. I can't empathize with what stroke victims must experience for months or years of feeling like that. People assume they are "not there" and aren't aware, but after these migraines, the only difference seems to be the recovery time and no long term damage (I hope not). Anyway, I feel sorry for anyone that has to experience these migraines. It starts with lighting/spots flashing in your eyes, extremities feel week and numb and then things get really bad. I don't feel like I fear anything in life or death, but I definitely do fear these episodes. Hopefully, this will never happen when I'm out by myself where the hospital or law enforcement thing I'm on drugs or a mental patient that can't create a cohesive, sentence.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randomquips

      Hit the nail on the head. While having one you just want to die. I actually told my (now-ex for an unrelated reason) girlfriend I wanted her and the rest of the world to die, because she was trying to help, and all she was doing was causing it to get worse.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tim

    I remember those migrain commercials when I was a kid and thinking "What a whimp". After experiencing one of these type the first time, I realized how serious they can be.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ron

    If speaking gibberish is a sign of migranes or stroke, then most of the people I work under should get to an ER as soon as possible.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. zippit

    I knew it, androids are amongst us and their circuits are being affected by this HUGE solar flare that just came thorough today.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Randomquips

    Well, that sucks. I get Migraines too (Or rather...I used to, I havent had one in two years...thank God.) and they aren't always triggered by something. I was getting them every few months, and I tried everything from writing down what I ate to avoiding any and all bright lights...nothing helped. Eventually, they became less frequent on their own.

    I can understand the garble too, because any time I had a migraine, I would have to think harder about everything I said, say it slowly, and still sometimes mess it up. Never did it that bad though. I feel bad for her, knowing that's what was wrong with her.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Migraines for me are usually caused by stress–but not at the height of the stress. They will come on as I start to relax and my arteries dilate. That's actually a pretty common cause for migraines and might explain why you couldn't find a trigger.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. Suzanne

    It's only funny or doubtful to those who don't have migraine disease, which functions in the opposite way of a headache (blood vessels enlarge). The symptoms are debilitating, I can't drive or walk when I'm blind in one eye, disoriented and vomiting. Can't recall words. The pain is comparable to labor pains. All in all an episode can last days. Mine are directly related to barometer changes, I can tell you when it will rain! It is no 'headache'.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cybersport

    The people making jokes about this obviously have never had a migraine. I had them for years, not with the visual effects, but with a lot of pain, along with sensitivity to light and noise... just awful...

    They cleared up some years ago when I was on medication for something else. I still get one occasionally but they're rare. Thank goodness.. No one who has never had one can appreciate how uncomfortable they make you feel.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Lynn

    I had this exact thing happen to me 20 years ago and it scared the hell out of me. Had an MRI to make sure all was okay and it was. It is hard to grasp unless you have personally experienced it. Glad she is okay!

    February 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MyCatLovesTV

    I had my 1st migraine with aura when I was 12. In my 20's I was back and forth at the ER begging to die or be drugged. Then the "triptans" came on the market. Thankfully, they went from those horrible self-injections to a pill form. At the first aura sympton, I took two generic Midrin and one triptan – the one of choice now is Amerge. I also take a beta blocker every morning as prevention. This gave me my life back. I had one strange episode, however, when I had the strangest feeling. My head felt like it was electrified, I had the sensation of being on a roller coaster and my left side was numb. I was terrified. At first my primary thought I was having a TIA but a neurologist disagreed. It was then I learned about "silent migraine" or migraine without pain. If that had not happened to me, I would have called bullsheet on this woman having a migraine....you know if you've got a history of them, you know if you are having one, etc., etc. But it only happened once and it was strange enough to make me realize that these thunderstorms in our brains are strange creatures and who is to say what I have is like what you have or what this reporter has. If her doctors say she had a migraine...then OK. I guess it is none of our business anyway but people need to know that they should take this stuff seriously...just to be on the safe side.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nik

    Nice headline CNN "Migraine blamed for Grammy garbling" Grammy garbling? seriously??!?!? that's what you call a true medical condition!?!?!?

    February 17, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. TommyD

    Magnesium supplements cured my migraines. There was another blond TV anchor back on 1/18/2011 who had the same speech glitch, look it up on youtube. Wouldn't it be something if blond androids are secretly being used and every once a while there's a glitch in the AI system controlling them and they start speaking nonsense.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. say what now?

    Let's blame migraine for the economy too.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • NAM

      What an idiotic comment.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
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