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. w hart

    I suffer from cluster headaches and they are absolutely debilitating- however, once a headache is coming on, i know it and take action, since I become non-functional quickly as the headache ramps up. (hi volume of o2 mitigates the headache quickly, but won't prevent the next one- the prophylactic drugs are nasty and unpredictable in effect.
    I don't know enough about migraine to know whether it can cause symptoms like this, but agree that she should be checked to make sure there is no neurological or other physical reason for the headache as a secondary symptom of something even more serious.
    FWIW, having suffered from clusters for years, and having done all kinds of research to learn as much as I can (there are a couple of good web sites and chat groups out there), very little seems to be known about the real cause of these 'primary' (i.e. not a symptom of blood clot, tumor or something else) headaches.

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

      I too have had clusters for the last 10 years and there is no worse pain, they are a nightmare that ruins the lives of everyone that has them,they're called "Suicide headaches" for a reason. I'm seasonal though not chronic thank God!

      February 18, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      I have to agree about the cluster headaches. I get all the various headaches, from complicated migraine to sinus to tension, but clusters are the worst for pain. The overall aura of a migraine with the blindness and nausea is debilitating, but the intense pain of a cluster headache is far, far worse.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. mensaboy

    People that have not experienced a migraine have no idea of the living hell imposed on the sufferer. Thank God I have mostly outgrown the headaches. At one point I was incapacitated 3 days at the time. Those who have made fun of her should be ashamed.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. laura

    that is exactly what mine is like. The first symptoms are scary at first, but the pain is unreal and then the dry heaving. Miserable.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dan

    My son suffered from migraines for years. A few years ago, I became a Christian. I placed my hands on my son's head and just thanked God for healing him. He never got another headached. That was almost 4 years ago. Thank you Jesus.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gina

      My mother will be bummed. She's been a Christian almost her entire life. Apparently Jesus doesn't love her enough.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gillian

      Well can you get Jesus to cure the migraines/cluster headaches of everyone in this blog? I don't mean to mock you,but if that's all it took well then I doubt migraines were actually the problem.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • TJ

      Are you sure or is he just afraid to tell you least you think he isn't a good Christian? You're placing an awful burden on him by attempting to "heal" a painful neurological condition using faith. At some point, an environmental trigger beyond his control will force another migraine and I can't imagine the guilt he will have thus prompting more migraines.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dana

    The poor dear! Going through with the report even as that was happening.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PaddyReagan

    This explains Branson's behavior but does nothing to address Rush Limbaugh's problem. He's been speaking gibberish for years and shows no sign of a cure.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. susie

    I have but one word: Imitrex.
    It saved my life.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. NAM

    I'm astounded at the number of ignorant commenters who wonder if it's "OK to go back to laughing at her?"! We can only hope that something this terrifying happens to you or someone you care about and see how freakin' funny it is then.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. skepticaleye

    The same thing happened to me during a work-related meeting in 2004, incoherent babbling and all. My colleagues thought I was having a stroke. It was bad enough that they called the paramedics and I was taken to the hospital. A day and half of tests later and they determined that I had experienced a migraine. Scariest thing that ever happened to me.

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

    The one thing I don't get (could have been hidden by make-up) is that when I got migraines, as soon as the spots started to appear in my vision and I realized I was getting a migraine, I turned pale. And I'm not saying just sick pale...I mean like, no blood above my neck pale.

    So why did she not turn pale (Again, it could be due to make-up) or does that not happen to everyone when they get them?

    February 17, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • RabiaDiluvio

      That's actually not so common.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      I don't get pale either, but a temperature drop is pretty common. I will often drop several degrees below normal as the migraine hits.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
    • MoxeeGirl

      I found it depends on the degree and type. I get both migraine w/aura and without – and I have the great joy of having different kinds of "aura" on different occasions! Only the migraines that cause severe nausea and severe sound sensitivity cause me to become pale. It its eye sensitivity, speech impairment, or moderate nausea or sound sensitivity I don't get pale.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Egyptian Magician

    If you drill a small hole into back of skull,you will release evil spirits causing pain.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randomquips

      If anyone thought that would actually work, it'd be worth the one time of pain from that to make sure it wouldn't ever happen again.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jmomma

    I was wondering. I suffer the same symptoms when I have my silent/complex migraines. Scary as heck. I'm glad she is okay.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NoGr8rH8r

    I sounded like that too, for about 4 hours, while trippin' on acid. : )

    February 17, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gillian

      Then go back to taking your acid and go talk on the druggie blogs, your nonsense isn't wanted here you twit.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. kdldid

    I suffered almost daily, debilatating migraines for about 30 yrs. Started with aura, followed by vomiting and sevre pain. They could last for days and sometimes I had to be hospitalized. Now the neurologist has me on a med called Topamax that has cut them down to every 3-4 months! Almost a miracle drug to me! Interesting side affect was weightloss, lol!

    February 17, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hiruu

    My wife gets Migraines...yup...that pretty much describe what happens to her for the really bad ones...I'm confused why she actually WENT on the air anyway...usually, my wife feels the onset of them and knows better to try and do stuff like drive, etc.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • dea2

      She may not have known what was happening, or it could have hit her as she was giving her report. I've had the auras hit mid-sentence before.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
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