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. Hmmm

    My husband does that when he is about to have an epileptic seizure. People "aura" before seizures, or even AS the seizure.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Greg

    I get terrible migraines to the point of making me vomit. There has never been a time where it's messed up my speech like that. There is no way that was a migraine. Watch her eyes, she is confused and frightened because she doesn't understand what's going on. I have seen this behavior before, from a stroke.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • MigraineSufferer

      Unfortunately, these are fairly common symptoms of migraines – I've been to numerous neurologists and had similar tests done and no evidence of anything more serious was found. I have these types of migraines at least 3-4 times per year, and am back to my old self within 24 hours. I am 27 and have had these since I was about 15, and my mother had them as well as they are known to be hereditary. They're VERY scary – I've been so confused/disoriented that I could not even dial a phone number to call someone to pick me up from work... you know what you want to say but just can't seem to get it out. Fortunately I have learned to be aware of triggers for my migraines – one MAJOR thing I stay away from is any type of diet soda or any food with Splenda or other calorie-free sugars. If I have these – instant migraine. Other triggers seem to be rich cheeses and chocolates.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • mother of four

      I have migraines too. And they can cause dysarthria–garbled speech, as well as ataxia–lack of coordination. My husband and sons will tell you that I have difficulty forming complete thoughts, get word order confused, and am more inclined to spill things and trip.

      Fortunately, I've never suffered from one in front of an audience.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Smurfeater

      So you are ignorant, Congratulations "This never happens to me" is neither a logical nor critical thought process. Consider yourself more informed on several levels now.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • adam

      I suffer from severe migraines myself, have for more than 20 years, but did you even read the article? Not all migraines are simply painful, and aura is often present and the symptoms she displayed are not that uncommon.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. Head hurts

    This story hits home...I just got back from the hospital,was there 2 days..everyone tought I was having a stroke,very scary..after CT scan,MRI and stuff I was diagnosed with a rare type of migraine...I had them for years but never like was unbelievable ,could hear ,see some but the speech was totally mess up,half body numb...anyone with migraine like this should get help right away!

    February 18, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. Craig Shearer

    John, I have had migraines since my teens that leave me with partial blindness. I have to pull off to the side of the road for 45 to 60 minutes during these episodes, if I am driving. I was diagnosed with Classic Migraine with Scintilliating Scotomas and Aura.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. I know how she feels

    I'm glad that's all it was, and not something fatal. I work in the film/tv industry and know she must've been under a time constraint and had to go on. Lots of performers and reporters will tough it out with a headache, and they'll never show it. This turned out to be far worse. I've suffered some bad migraines too. They've hit me so hard I'd press my head into a pillow and rock waiting for the meds to kick in. Not an experience I'd wish on my worst enemy... well, some of them maybe.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    I have experienced the speech problems during a migrain. Funny thing though...during the episode, I could speak Spanish – a language I learned as a teenager – just fine.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. journeytokimberly

    I've had that happen to me 2x before in my early 20's. I couldn't even remember what sounds letters made and my right hand and right side of my face went numb. We went to the hospital right away suspecting a stroke but it was a migraine wiht aura's. My birth control triggered them. I still get migraines but never like that anymore, sometimes I still have the numbness though.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mark

    I've had this problem several times. But after further test were done it was decided I was just drunk

    February 18, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jack

    I experienced what she went through but mine was more serious in that I thought I was having a stroke with complete lateral paralysis on my right side and unable to say anything or move my right arm/leg for about two hours. The docs ruled out a stroke but said at the time (in 1986) that it was due to a "Migraine Seizure". At the time, I was under tremendous amount of stress and the event occurred when the phone rang which startled me, then the paralysis took hold.. very frightening experience but has never happened since. Doc put me on Inderal for high blood pressure. No problems since.

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

    F this! Pay attention to Wisconsin and the dismantling of worker rights!!! If you dont it WILL come to your state next.

    Repaste this if you give a dam.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. Foster

    I truly hope she is OK, gamma blister gonner burna dimmo way pad dipina rope kinta carb alist.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Costa

      You are so wrong for that..... and you know it foo.....

      February 18, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      Youtube: Serene Branson autotune remix for great times

      February 18, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  12. jesús

    I love these comments. And 3, 2, 1...

    February 18, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Daniel

    Hah she just needs some LSD or psilocybin the 2 most effective medicines for treating migraines. Oh that's right they are illegal because they are cheap and natural to produce so there is no profit in them for the government or pharmaceutical companies compared to $150 per dose Zomig. I'm sure the FDA has everyone's best interest at heart though I really am. *universal hand gesture for masturbation*

    February 18, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  14. willy robots

    This happens to me everytime. When I start getting the aura (blurred vision, numbness, and jumbled speach) I take Excedrin Migraine which does work, but I have to take 4 or 5 of them. Once I pop those bad boys in I lock myself in a dark room with a huge bag of ice on my head and wait for it to subside.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Daniel

    Glad she is ok though because now it is totally ok to make fun of the whole thing with no waiting period.

    February 18, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
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