This is what one kind of stroke looks like

Update 2-17-11: Not a stroke, thank goodness, but a stroke mimic, a complex migraine:

LOS ANGELES — A TV reporter who lapsed into gibberish during a live shot outside the Grammys suffered a migraine, her doctors said Thursday.

KCBS-TV reporter Serene Branson was doing a stand-up Sunday outside the Staples Center where the award show was held when her speech became incoherent. The station quickly cut away, and she was examined by paramedics and recovered at home.

Branson’s incoherence fueled Internet speculation that she suffered an on-air stroke. But doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles where she went to get a brain scan and blood work done ruled it out.

I’m glad for her. The smart move is to assume this is a stroke until proven it’s not, and I’m glad it wasn’t.

Original Post:

The site I found this on assumed it was on-air jitters, and called it ‘the flub heard ’round the world‘.

Except it’s not a flub. This is one way a stroke can present (watch the video, it’s short and unforgettable):
I cannot suppress the autoplay, and for that reason the video and the rest of the post is below the fold. Apologies.

If it’s true she was examined by Paramedics and cleared then that means she was essentially back to normal, making this a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), which means essentially ‘a stroke you get over’.

Note some of the things I’m sent in emails to confirm a stroke suspicion aren’t here: no facial drooping, apparently in control of her arms completely, standing normally, etc.

She has an obvious speech disturbance, is aware of it (as she repeats herself), but interestingly has the TV intro/handoff cadence so ingrained that even with unintelligible speech you can hear the pacing and intonation come through.

Fortunately there’s a report she went to a hospital, and will no doubt get a battery of tests, which could conceivably be done as an outpatient but I’d want the initial evaluation not to wait, but to be done emergently in an ED. If you start doing this, or someone in your family does, hie thee to an ED.

I hope she has a complete recovery, and she has a potential career in stroke awareness ahead of her (I understand she also sings).


  1. Grunt–

    Gary Schweitzer of the Health News Review blog has an analysis of NBC’s coverage of this event which you might find interesting ( In the comments section I wrote something similar to your “if this happens, hie thee to an ED” point.

    I’d quibble a bit with your assertion that she had a TIA assuming her speech returned to normal. If I bump into some neurologists over the next few days I’ll ask, but I’m still thinking that there’s a wider differential out there, and would include MS or some other demyelinating syndrome, vasculitis, complications of advanced HIV infection (e.g. toxo, PML), aneurysm. Could she have flicked an embolus from her mitral or aortic valve because she has sterile endocarditis? It’s rare but possible. I’m just thinking that she is pretty young for a TIA.

    Enjoyed the post. Best, Billy

  2. Goatwhacker says:

    I was thinking a migraine equivalent would be in the differential mix as well for someone in this age group. I agree she should have gone to the ED though.

  3. Wayne Conrad says:

    Yes, migraine is in the mix. I had _exactly_ this happen to me, except I wasn’t on camera.

  4. Faith Ellens says:

    Is this really a type of stroke? I’m usually watching youtube videos this type where news anchors stumble with their words. I hope she gets well.

  5. I was pretty sure that she wasn’t having a stroke at the time but thought for sure that there was something cerebral happening. Either that or she’d taken pain killers, there are old interviews with the late Corey Haim about his acting and he sounds very similar.
    Glad to hear that she’s ok.

  6. Charavari says:

    I regularly get migraines, and have had one so severe that I had left-sided hemiparesis. Self-resolved after 2 hours, but frightening none the less. I probably should have sought medical advice…