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. Ben

    I'm glad it was a migraine, not a stroke. That way I don't have to feel guilty for laughing for ten minutes when I first saw the video.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. Springer

    To all those sufferers who say how bad migraines are......believe them...I had roughly 6 of them back in the mid to late 70's in high school. 1st indication was flashing lights in the corners of both eyes, That was my clue to get somewhere dark and quiet until the damn thing ran it's course , numbness in the arms soon followed by collapsing tunnel vision about 1/2 hour later until vision totally disappeared. Then the pain showed up, and boy did he bring all his friends. Hard to explain one until you have had one. It's a unique brotherhood that I wish I didn't know the secret handshake too. They only lasted 6-8 months and haven't resurfaced in 30+ years. That's o.k. because I had enough way back when.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. AlanMaui

    Migraine suffers that have aura symptoms are the lucky ones I think. I have had migraines since I was about 12 years old. I am one of those that get visual aura symptoms about 30 minutes before the pain starts. For years I have as soon as I realize that I am having aura symptoms, I take three aspirin or better a codeine and then lie down for 30 minutes or so. Thus doing I experience no pain. I still experience nausea, distorted speech, and distorted vision for about 30 – 40 minutes. This has worked for me for years. If I don't take the pain killers early, as soon as I see the aura, then there is nothing that kills the incredible pain except a shot of morphine. I feel sorry for others that get no warning or preliminary symptoms.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. TurangaLeela

    I've been lucky enough to have never had a migraine. Nearly everyone in my mom's family, however, does suffer from them. My mom suffered a migraine nearly once a month from her late teens until her mid-thirties until she got pregnant with yours truly. In the 25 years since my birth, she's had 6 total and I tease her that I'm the cure for migraines. All joking aside, though, migraines are nothing to mess with. The few I saw my mom get were debilitating. Pain killers were useless, she'd vomit, see spots and halos around objects, she couldn't stand light and sound, and the only thing she could do was try to sleep through as much of it as the frequent vomiting would allow. And most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins get migraines to varying degrees. My uncle was once looking through an art book and came across a painting that made him suddenly stop and say "That looks like a migraine." It was this chaotic swirling mass of different colors and jagged shapes, and he said that's almost exactly the kind of things he'd see with his migraines.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. David


    February 18, 2011 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Gillian

      Great comment, Einstein. Bravo.

      February 18, 2011 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tony

    This woman should get an MRI with contrast agent ASAP. My partner has this exact same thing happen. He was treated for a stroke and had a normal MRI. About three months later he had another problem with speaking. This time he had an MRI and it turned out to be brain cancer – GBM. His first "stroke" was really a seizure caused by someting to do with the brain cancer even though nothing showed up on his MRI. Several top neuro doctors say that a seizure which preceeds brain cancer can mimic a stoke. Unless she has had this "migrane" thing before she should be thoroughlly checked out now, in a few months and a few months after that.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      I'm guessing that the multiple top neurosurgeons and migraine experts who work at a highly rated hospital and examined her more than once over the past week have probably done this already.

      But I'm sure they appreciate the internet user with no education who second guesses them...

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

    To all of you that suffer migraine with aura, but with no pain (speech imparment, temporary vission loss -blind areas):
    It seems that other than stress there are food factors or stuff you drink that trigger episodes.
    Is it known if a test exists that can determine exactly what the trigger is? I doubt it since there are hundreds and hundreds of potential culprits, but it would be so good if such a test already exists.

    I am one of those that had suffered at least half dozen episodes of speech impairment and blind spots in my field of vission with absolute zero pain, ever, never. I just had 3 MRI's 10 days ago that ruled out stroke, and my neurologist is almost sure these neuroligical episodes are.

    My sympthoms are mostly giberish, but while I am speaking giberish my brain realizes that that is not what I want to say, so I try to force myself to count to 10, or to say my complete name but half way there I get lost and confused yet again and loose my speech. Very scary because you don't know if this could be permanent.

    With so many people suffering from this, it would be really good if there would be a way to figure out what triggers these things.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Dario

      I goofed up, meant to say the neurologist believes they are migraines with no pain.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. LEB

    I don't think she's making it up. I haven't experienced a migraine as serious as some of the other folks here, but I do get them sometimes. Light and sound is almost physically painful, and all I want to do is lay in a dark room until the pain goes away. When I have a migraine, trying to speak is similar to trying to string together words while intoxicated. It's a struggle just to be coherent.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. Art In Chicago

    Man, that must have been the Mother of Migraines.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. ceri

    my boyfriend has done this a few times when he has a migraine coming on, very creepy. Just blahblahblah with no idea that he is just babbling. At least migraines give you fair warning.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. Kate

    I've suffered with migraines for doc prescribed Relpax, and it works like a charm within about 1/2 hour. If you get migraines, (and have health insurance, as they're very costly), give them a me, it's a miracle drug!

    February 18, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. LaNeil02

    What a professional. She just kept on trying to hold it together. Glad to hear it was not a life altering problem, not that Migranes aren't life altering, but stroke symptoms never let up if they are severe.

    February 18, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. rich

    I had a very heavy burtation tonight. Then I went to the bathroom and I feel much better now.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. kels~

    i suffer from migraines, sometimes EVERY DAY...and I have had jobs where this would happen...and when I was single at that time w/ a child i had to force myself to look productive or be productive or i would have been w/out a job and become homeless quickly....there was no option, had to make it thru the day. when you have a high stress job, like hers – sometimes you HAVE to work anyway... i feel for her as i've been in those same shoes. some events and deadlines don't allow you to just go home. 😦

    February 18, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. Liz

    I've always been so grateful I don't get these things. I didn't really know how different they were from regular headaches. I'm glad the reporter's okay.

    My boyfriend uses Tylenol for Migraines or some such thing just for regular headaches. I've used it for that and arthritis pain when I'm at his place. It seems to work like a charm for that stuff, it sucks if doesn't have much effect on real Migraines.

    February 18, 2011 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
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