TV Reporter suffered migraine not stroke – and migraine is NOT “just a headache”

This poor woman, Serene Branson, a reporter for KCBS in Los Angeles experienced a migraine, while on the air, reporting from the Grammy awards.  Everyone thought it was a stroke.  However, subsequent tests indicated a migraine, and UCLA neurologist Dr. Andrew Charles, who examined Branson, said, “A migraine is not just a headache. It’s a complicated brain event.”

Thank you, Dr. Charles!  As a migraineur for 30 years, I have been saying this over and over again.

It is NOT “just a headache.”  It is a syndrome – a cluster of symptoms that may include, but not be limited to:  Head pain, nausea, dizziness, disorientation, blurred or temporary loss of vision, and partial paralysis. 

Migraine is not a “headache” in the sense that one can take a Tylenol, and feel better in 15 minutes.  In fact, my mantra has always been, “If a Tylenol gets rid of the pain – you didn’t have a real headache – it was definitely NOT a migraine.”  The only non-prescription medication that even comes close to helping with true migraine is Extra Strength Excedrin.  Even then, it is important to take the Excedrin at the very first sign of the migraine.  It is helpful to take it with a cold, caffeinated beverage (such as Coke), and vital that you then lie down in a cool, dark, quite room. 


That is the best you can do without a prescription medication, and the objective here, is to interrupt the migraine – stop the momentum of the pain.  When it gains that momentum, there is no stopping it.


Even the prescription medications don’t always work.  The migraine is like a locomotive – it just keeps coming at you.  I typically take Imitrex, a prescription medication.  Most of the time, if taken at the first sign of a migraine, this drug will work – but, not always.  Sometimes, it simply interrupts the migraine for a few hours, and you have to take another dose, which results in only another interruption.  A severe migraine will keep on trying.  Then, the resultant complication is you have to keep taking the medication for several days, to keep the migraine at bay – and there are only nine pills in a package.  They go pretty quickly when the migraine locomotive is determined to ruin your week. 


I could write plenty more on this subject.  However, most of it is covered in the migraine portion of my website:


I just wanted to use this blog to address the reporter’s experience.  It sounds like it might have been her first migraine.  I will never forget my first.  I truly thought I was going blind or having a stroke. It is terrifying.  

I am so thankful for her it was not a stroke.  The national attention is also helpful for those of us who do suffer – it shines a spotlight on the issue – A MIGRAINE is not “just a headache.”


About nancsue

Writer - Former newspaper columnist - lover of all things nostalgic, collies, music, humor, and ever grateful to those who defend American citizens at home and abroad.
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