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Wernicke’s Aphasia Caught On Tape?


Updated: CBS pulled the youTube video, but you can still see it here.

Some people are speculating that she suffered a stroke on-air. Since the symptoms were transient, I’d be more likely to call it a TIA, or perhaps some type of seizure.

The story says a coworker drove her home as a precautionary measure after paramedics on scene checked her out.

The proper precautionary measure would have been a safe, comfortable BLS ambulance ride to the Emergency Department for a CT scan and a neurological workup. Whoever the medic was that let her refuse transport, I can only hope he tried hard to convince her to go, and documented accordingly.

Update 2-18-2011:
Doctors and patient are saying it was a complex migraine. And while it wasn’t a stroke, it still doesn’t rule out a TIA. Early CT scans of acute ischemic stroke are essentially normal, and especially so with the transient symptoms of a TIA. Without more sophisticated imaging than a CT scan (the report only says she had “blood tests and a brain scan”), there’s no way to definitively say it wasn’t a TIA.

I’m happy Serene Branson’s symptoms weren’t a harbinger of a more serious condition, but I must stress: If you or a loved one ever experience such symptoms, seek medical care immediately. Call 911.

Comments - Add Yours

  • Rich

    Nasty. I hope she does get that check-out!

    That’s not the first time something like this has happened.

    Doug Rafferty, a Portland Maine news anchor, had a stroke during the nightly news several years ago.

    If I recall correctly, they came back from commercial just as it was becoming evident that he was in distress. After a couple of seconds, they realized that something was wrong, cut the shot, and called for help.

    The stroke wasn’t major, and while he no longer anchors the news, the is still active at WGME.

  • Christopher

    AD, I thought Wernicke’s was receptive aphasia and Broca’s was expressive aphasia (which it appeared she was having). Do I have it backwards, or does Wernicke’s also include expressive aphasia?

    • Anonymous

      I was also taught the same thing during my Miami Stroke class, but newer research seems to indicate that the relationship of the two centers to understanding and formulating speech is more complex than that.

      Wernicke’s Aphasia seems to manifest itself as garbled and nonsense words interspersed with understandable speech, whereas Broca’s Apahsia manifests itself as very slow and halting speech with a severely limited vocabulary, often just a handful of words.,

      • Christopher

        Thanks for the update!

  • Robert J. Wilson

    Wow… Poor thing!! I can’t believe she refused treatment, but my mom did the same thing. I wonder if someone played the tape for her so she could see the signs herself?

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  • PJ

    Video no work. Try this one instead:

  • Anonymous

    I’m completely bewildered by people who refuse medical treatment (Even just diagnostic tests) when something is obviously wrong. I have to agree with ya: I hope the paramedic tried REAL HARD to convince her to come in for tests and was told to get lost anyways.

  • Samurai Medic

    Ya never know, she might have just been smoking weed with Willie Nelson.

  • Guest

    Something people don’t seem to be considering is that she may have a chronic condition and she knows what happened. That would explain her rather dismissive attitude about the whole thing and why she didn’t go to the ER. There are some types of atypical migraines that can present with stroke like symptoms.

    • Ehobbins

      I have MS, and this occasionally happens to me. If she’s in a similar boat, she’d want the fuss to die down as soon as possible and to get on with her life.

  • Ron Davis

    Interesting you mentioned CTs being normal. Talking to my radiologist friend about how possible CVAs go straight to CT at one of the ERs where I do clinicals and he wondered why not a MRI, since a CT wouldn’t really show you a problem.

    Of course he also answered that because it takes so much longer to do a MRI. Also he said it is impossible to hire and keep MRI techs that will work nights. Seems there is a robust market for MRI techs and if you make them work nights, they quit and go somewhere else.

  • Moose

    I get icepick migraines. But one day, when I was 26, I had the spike-y-est sharp pain in my head, worse than anything I’ve ever had ever before, while on my way to a meeting. 5 minutes later, I was giving a report in the meeting when I started speaking gibberish [well worse than usual :-P] and the sight in one eye was going away, as if someone was slowly pushing a blinder over the eye.

    My boss called the campus police, who sent over two nice student EMTs. By the time they arrived I was fine, speaking English and could see normally. They took my blood pressure [100/40] and my pulse [whatever] and said, “Call your regular Dr.” I did so and they said, “Come in right now.”

    When I got there the vitals were of course taken again [BP now 100/I-can’t-hear-it]. The Dr eventually came in and promptly started yelling at me about how I’d had a stroke and it was because I was fat and if I didn’t lose weight I would be dead before I was 30. When I started crying hysterically he gave me a prescription for 2 weeks of Valium [“You’re obviously overreacting to this”] and told me to go to Weight Watchers.

    I promptly switched to seeing his partner. A week later I had another too-sharp-and-spikey headache, and she promptly … sent me to a neurologist. The neurologist sent me for a CT, which was clean, and promptly told me that it was “probably” just a complicated migraine, but just in case, I had better lose weight and blah blah blah. Well at least he didn’t tell me I was going to die in 4 yrs.

    That was, mind you, 21 yrs ago. I’ve since learned that telling patients “you’re going to die” like that (unless it’s, like, you have a tumor here’s what we expect) is called Voodoo Medicine. Sometimes the patients start believing the Dr’s bullshit and up and die for no reason. Sometimes they’re smart enough to know that Voodoo only works if you believe it and go on living.

    The point of my long babbling story? If I had a time machine I would have kicked those little EMTs in the fanny & dialed 911 myself. Jumpin jeebus, what if it really had been a TIA?