Serene Branson

What happened to that reporter who started babbling on the Grammy red carpet? Isn't she a little young for a stroke?
—Paul, via the inbox

You speak of Serene Branson, who suddenly behaved not so serenely in the middle of Sunday's Grammy festivities. Her people insist that everything is fine, nothing to see here, folks.

But if Branson hasn't gotten herself to a hospital by now, experts say she should—and stat:

Here's what we know so far. A video of Branson has been circulating widely since Sunday's Grammy telecast. It shows the reporter suddenly speaking gibberish, with seemingly no awareness of how she sounds.

Her station's Web site has since posted this 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."

The statement also assures us that Branson "followed-up with a visit to the doctor for some medical tests."

Let's hope that's true. Because doctors tell me that Branson's behavior does not fall into the spectrum of "normal," even for people who are suffering from, say, lack of sleep, or mild social disorders.

"This is not something you can fake, not that she was doing that," says Peter J. Pema, a neuro-interventional radiologist. "If she isn't getting herself to a hospital, that's crazy. I would start with an MRI; I would not let this go."

As for what specifically may have cause this behavior, it's impossible to know without an examination, Pema tells me. But the possibilities include an undiagnosed heart condition; a hole in the heart could cause clotting that travels to the brain, for example. The clot, in turn, could have caused a mini-stroke called a transient ischemic attack—essentially, a temporary change in the brain's blood supply.

A tumor also could cause those kinds of symptoms, Pema tells me, as could a hemorrhage—bleeding in the brain.

Whatever the cause, it is, I am told, potentially very serious, and should be checked out forthwith.

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