The video was difficult and upsetting to watch. As Serene Branson, a young and healthy-looking CBS Los Angeles reporter, delivered a live report from the red carpet of the Grammy awards Sunday night, her speech suddenly became slurred and incomprehensible. She appeared increasingly worried and aware that something was wrong while she was on the air.
Mike Nelson,a CBS spokesman, gave the following statement: "Serene Branson was examined by paramedics on scene immediately after her broadcast. Her vital signs were normal. She was not hospitalized. As a precautionary measure, a colleague gave her a ride home and she says that she is feeling fine this morning."
But after watching the clip, several doctors said that Sunday night's events caught on tape should not be taken lightly.
"[That's a] pretty scary clip," said Dr. Larry Goldstein, director of Duke Stroke Center in Durham, N.C. "She appears to have an aphasia, [or] problem with expressive language, and right-sided facial weakness. Although this can be caused by other conditions, it is very concerning for stroke."
Aphasia usually comes on suddenly after a stroke or head injury, but it can also progress gradually because of a growing brain tumor or degenerative disease.
The American Stroke Association says that if a person shows any sign of a stroke, including difficulty speaking, she should get to the hospital immediately.
"I would always recommend that people who have sudden trouble talking should go to the emergency room," said Dr. Dawn Kleindorfer, associate professor of neurology at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "If her symptoms lasted less than 24 hours, it's possible she had a transient ischemic attack or it could have been a complicated migraine. But either way, I would always recommend that people get checked out to be sure."
A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, occurs in a person who has stroke-like symptoms for up to one to two hours because of to a temporary disturbance of blood supply to an area of the brain. A TIA is often considered a warning sign for a true stroke in the future if nothing is done to prevent it.
"From what I saw of the broadcast, it would make sense that the person seeks immediate neurological evaluation," said Dr. Patrick Lyden, chairman of the department of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "The symptoms of altered speech -- aphasia -- can be a symptom of an underlying problem, such as stroke or tumor. However, I have no further medical information about this specific case."
A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, is an interruption of the blood supply to a part of the brain. The term comes from the old adage that a sufferer had received a "stroke of God's hand" and was therefore damaged.
While the old wives' tale has now been explained through scientific fact, it is no fallacy that a stroke can cause lasting damage. If blood flow to the brain is stopped for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get enough blood and oxygen and brain cells die, causing permanent injury.
Although the likelihood of stroke increases with age, doubling for every decade after age 55, one-third of strokes occur in people younger than 65, with particular risk in young and middle aged women, Duke's Goldstein said.