Doctor: Reporter Suffered Migraine, Not Stroke - Watch the Water Cooler

By Mary Collins
By ABC News

February 18, 2011 Updated Feb 18, 2011 at 9:40 AM EDT

LOS ANGELES, CA., (Indiana's NewsCenter)--- Serene Branson, the CBS Los Angeles television reporter who slurred her speech during an on-air live report after the Grammy Awards as soon as she opened her mouth, she knew something was wrong.

I was having trouble remembering the word for Grammy. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn't have the words to say it," Branson said in an interview on CBS's Los Angeles affiliate station KCBS Thursday night.

During her post-Grammy report, her words became incomprehensible and she appeared worried.

Video of the incident soon went viral online and fueled theories and speculation on what really happened to her.

In her first interview since the incident, Branson, told KCBS that earlier in the day she started to get a really bad headache.

While sitting in the TV truck before her report, she noticed her notes looked unclear.

"I started to think the words on the page are blurry. And I could notice that my thoughts were not forming the way they normally do," she said.

When she delivered her report, she said she was aware that she wasn't making sense.

In the days after her on-air report, many were left wondering if she suffered a stroke. But her doctor says that was not the case.

"Her description of the events is really entirely typical of complex migraine," said Dr. Andrew Charles, director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program in the UCLA Department of Neurology, who saw Branson Thursday morning.

A symptom of migraine aura is "dysphasic language dysfunction," in which people know what they want to say but they can't get the words out. This is similar to aphasia, which can signal a stroke or a tumor.

"Imaging studies ruled out other kinds of problems like a stroke or primary brain event," Charles said.

Like a stroke, a complex migraine can disturb blood flow in the brain. But the main event in a migraine is "a storm of brain activity" that causes "waves of change in brain function" that spread across the brain, Charles said.

"There are dramatic changes in blood flow, but in the case of migraine, the changes don't reach the point where they actually damage the brain," Charles said. "There are no residual effects."

"Most people are aware that they're not speaking coherently and it's frightening when people understand that they're not making sense," Charles said. "It is typical for people to be quite upset by the event."

"I was embarrassed, I was terrified and confused, confused – what had just happened?" said Branson.

Branson was examined shortly after the incident by paramedics on location. Her vital signs were normal and she was not hospitalized.

"The word stroke never came into my mind, but medical emergency was in my mind – something is medically going wrong. I can't feel my hand…can't feel my cheek," she said.

Although Branson said she'd never had a complex migraine before, she said her mother has experienced them.

"If it was the first time it happened to someone, it would be important to evaluate them urgently," Charles said. "In her case, I think part of it was that she was feeling back to normal and she did have an understanding, even though she was frightened, that this was something that might tend to run in her family."

During the interview on KCBS, Branson watched her report for the first time since it happened and said "it was shorter than it felt."

Branson also said it's evident by reviewing the tape that what she experienced was a medical emergency.

"I think it's clear from watching it that I was not drunk or on drugs as I heard…or that was reported out there. That's clear. It's clear I'm having a medical condition. I think what resonated for most people was the human crisis of it…," she said.

For now, Branson said she's eager to get back to work and ready to be telling the story and not be the story.

"If I can at least let people know that I am ok and talk about the issue and let people know that it is something serious, that it is a medical condition, then that's what I'd like to do," she said.

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