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. Tracie Madden

    I had sort of thought that and "hoped" that was it over a stroke. I've had real migraines (and I know some of you have, too) and sound and light can intensify it beyond any control...I was imagining the lights going on in her face right at that moment and all the hubbub and heat....I can totally see that happening. Best to her and her family...I've only had it happen in front of my family and it's been embarrassing-but it's certainly not something to be embarrassed of when you stop and realize what's happened.

    It's so irritating – all the web speculation and nonsense...grr...just hope she's ok.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Wife of migraine sufferer

    She continued working because many employers don't have a clue how debilitating migraines are. They think you are being lazy. JR is right, I've never understood those commercials that depict migraines like a regular headache, but they want everyone to think that's what their product would do for you. I wish migraines were protected under ADA. My husband does great at work but gets reprimanded for attendance because he can be down for the count up to three days at a time due to migraines and no one else there suffers from them.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • RabiaDiluvio

      Migraine is not always debilitating for everyone. I have been known to work through them and not because I was bullied or misunderstood. I have even had pain-free migraines (they happen) and sometimes the aphasic thing can happen suddenly and without any other aura or warning signs.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      I know exactly what you mean! People who claim to have "migraines" when they clearly have never had a true migraine degrade the diagnosis for those of us really do have them. I know so many people who get plain old tension headaches with no other symptoms and call them "migraines." No wonder employers don't take true migraines seriously! It is a shame that it is incredibly tough to get any kind of FMLA or disability rights for migraines or cluster headaches. I've had to quit jobs simply because I was dealing with debilitating pain nearly every day through cluster headache cycles but couldn't get any kind of medical rights.

      The sad thing is, even doctors and nurses are not always educated. I had my first migraine at school and the nurse kicked me out of the clinic because I didn't have a fever and she assumed I was faking–in fact, as with many migraines, my temperature had dropped. Minutes later I was doubled over in pain and throwing up in the hallway. I've also heard of so many migraine sufferers who spent hours in the ER trying to get a diagnosis for their first headaches. When I was still new to migraines, I had that problem. The doctors took multiple vials of blood looking for all kinds of rare diseases but totally ignored the obvious.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tracie Madden

    I meant to hit "like" for above comment – not report...can't find how to delete my mistake.

    Sitnalta

    I used to have migraines where I would go completely blind and lose feeling on one side of my face. These episodes were almost random, occurring about once a month (and I'm a guy, so, that reason is out the door.) Absolutely nothing prevented them or made them better, I just had to tough it out for the 3 or so hours that they lasted. Then they just stopped altogether. Haven't had one for over 10 years.
    February 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Thank you for your feedback. We will look into it. |

    February 18, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. jim

    I've had this. Not as much speech slurring as the reporter (you don't realize when you are doing it) but I was nonetheless send for a neurological consult. Symptoms resolved on their own in 24hrs.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. JT

    With all this talk of migraines and cluster headaches it is surprising that no one has mentioned any of the recent research and strong anecdotal evidence showing that psilocybin mushrooms and LSD can significantly reduce and in some cases cure cluster headaches.

    Yes it's illegal, but beyond legailty, it's immoral to keep help from people who are suffering.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • scribble

      I have migraines and too date I have not heard of this type of treatment. But I can assure you that I would not want to be "high" while dealing with the godawful pain of a migraine. If somehow pharma companies can modify these drugs to eliminate the high and actually work on the migraine, then maybe there is potential. I don't know anyone who suffers from migraines who want to get "high". They just want the pain to go away.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. jody filer

    Hugh? A headache? I've never acted like her while experiencing a headache.
    Illegal drugs maybe? Come on folks, there is more to this story than meets the eye!
    She looks anorexic, could this be a possible cause?

    February 18, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • RabiaDiluvio

      Someone else who thinks a migraine is just headache. Do you ever read?

      February 18, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • scribble

      I hope when if you get a heart attack one day someone says to you, "oh, did someone break your little heart this week, here have some tea and make it feel better." jerk

      February 18, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Wow, that is true ignorance. You should be embarrassed.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. HH

    This is called aphasia, and is very common with migraine sufferers. I get three-four migraines a week, and my coworkers call this my "Yodaspeak." Sometimes I dont' even realize I'm doing it.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. MXD

    Something doesn't sound right about this official story. From everything you real migraine sufferers are saying it seems that anyone with a migraine is in debilitating pain even before the speech problem starts. Most have said that at that point you're incapable of driving, working on your pc, etc. So how was this reporter able to go on-camera and start talking if she was in the throws of a migraine? Or can they start up that quickly and affect your speech right away?

    February 18, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • dea2

      For most sufferers the auras, including the garbled speech, start before the headache and are an indicator that we use to get ourselves ready for the headache that will soon follow. In someone who does not have a diagnosis of migraines this can be a very scary event and can be confused with many other conditions, including strokes and being high.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • TurangaLeela

      I think it's different for each person. My mom's were horrible, debilitating affairs that came on with little warning and left her in crushing pain for nearly a full day and so worn out the next day all she could do was sleep. From what I understand, there are also "flash" type migraines. Like those tropical rainstorms that last all of 30 minutes but drop more rain than most other places get in a month. I have flash headaches from time to time. I'll be fine one minute and then the next there's a sudden, intense pain behind my eyes, and then within 30 seconds to a minute, it's gone. It's no migraine, but flash migraines would be on the same line. Incredibly sudden, but brief, intense pain that's different from a normal headache both in severity and accompanying neurological symptoms (blurred or restricted vision, speech disturbances,numbness, etc.). They're no less intense than a day-long migraine, just much more brief.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Migraines vary in their severity and symptoms. I never have visual disturbances, and the pain varies from mild to moderate and is spread around the head rather than on one side. If something upsets me, I can immediately have a stabbing pain behind one eye, which might go away quickly or might last for many weeks. And I'm just one person. From person to person there are many differences. The symptoms you read about most often are not the symptoms I have. I have no trouble believing this news story because that could have been me.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. plainjaney

    I have these types of migraines. They started in highschool. At first it was just little floating lines in my vision followed my a pounding stabbing pain on the right side of my head and behind my right eye. As the years went on my periphreal vision would blur out. Then I started noticing difficulty speaking. Now they have progressed to the point that my hands and mouth go numb, I lose my vision completely, it just starts fading to black, I get vertigo, and start speaking gibberish. I know what I want to say, and I can hear it coming out wrong, but no matter how hard I try I can't get the right words out. Thankfully I don't get them as often as alot of people, but when I do get them they seem to come in sets for two or three days. Its terrifying, because I realize I could have a stroke or aneurism someday, and I wouldn't know. I would probably just pass it off as another migraine. These headaches are real and very dibilitating. Doctors have no answers as to what causes them, and the drugs they perscribe rarely work and often have side effects that are as bad as the migraine.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • dea2

      I take a baby aspirin a day for a blood disorder that causes migraines through microclots, and many migraine meds contain aspirin. That might be something you could look into.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      I'm pretty lucky that I have the worst of my migraines under control. Of course I've had them for over 20 years, so I know when they hit that I need to get to a dark and quiet room immediately! I personally know most of my migraine triggers and try to avoid them, but I also have pretty much every other type of headache–most of which are unexplained. I have read many recent studies that show a very high correlation between unexplained headaches and childhood emotional abuse and neglect, (both of which I endured with a mentally ill parent.) These same studies show that the worse the abuse is, the earlier the headaches start. It's amazing what stress can do to your body, but for many kids, the tension of living in constant fear can lead to unexplained pain in adulthood. Obviously not everyone was abused, but for many of us, this was probably a risk factor and it might be something for migraineurs to consider.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  10. jody filer

    Gfvty cfhr uis zsbdh dhd ajse? Sjdhgdf skekiekmj. Kdjkkelw sjdhyf cjhfie zndjudsde. vbfrhy djfdj sjsd!!!!
    Dhd sjd dhg smjdj dhdh xcx sjs.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • RabiaDiluvio

      That puts the F U in funny.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. ron

    I have actually gotten a headache after reading all the comments. Seriously !!! I Feel for all you guys and gals with
    the migraines. It must be a terrible affliction. I suffered with anxiety and panic attacks for several years until a doctor
    prescribed Paxel and it stopped within weeks. I have learned a lot from these blogs.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mary

    I suffer from migraines as well. They are debilitating. Unfortunately I have also passed them down to three of our four children. That hurts me even more.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • kels~

      i fear the same thing has happened to my 5 year old, he has started complaining about his head hurting....poor guy :(

      February 18, 2011 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
  13. neurosurge

    Migraines are caused by the natural pesticide found in tea leaves, chocolate, soda, coffee, etc. Also, this is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. You are addicted to it from childhood on and don't even realize it. What is this you ask? The compound 1,3,7 trimethylxanthine or what most of you know as CAFFEINE. This causes a 30-50% loss of blood flow to the brain and causes chaos in the body. Caffeine is toxic to insects and animals. Humans are mammals; therefore, toxic to us. The one lady that stated after she stopped drinking coke the migraines quit, she is right on. Pay attention to how you feel when you eat or drink something....you are what you eat.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • dea2

      That may be a trigger in SOME migraines, but not all. Generalizations like yours do more harm than good in the search for effective treatments, and the validation migraine sufferers need as they search for a cure. A small percentage are triggered by foods, including caffeine, but most are not.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Oh geez. More ignorance. My diet is almost completely free of caffeine and I get serious headaches pretty much every day. Oddly enough, for people who don't normally use caffeine, a small amount of cola can actually relieve the pain. I sometimes drink 4 ounces of Pepsi when I'm not getting any headache relief and have found that it can help.

      February 18, 2011 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. ron

    Actually it's spelled PAXIL not PAXEL . Sorry !

    February 18, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Tim

    Top story here folks! Breaking news!
    And the news is...
    Someone got a headache! WHOA! Can you believe that, folks? What a night to remember!

    For fudges sake, CNN!

    February 18, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • dea2

      The people who were worried about her and those of us who suffer migraines, and possibly are not diagnosed, do find this relevant and important. Just because it's not important to you doesn't mean it's not important to someone else.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Gillian

      go back under your rock, troll

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