Was CBS Reporter’s Grammy Garble A Sign Of Stroke? Possibly.

It’s easy to understand why this video of CBS reporter Serene Branson speaking gibberish during a live Grammys report has gone viral on the Web. It’s the quintessential nightmare. You’re speaking on live TV and suddenly your tongue — or your brain — is unable to produce a coherent sentence. I feel a cold sweat coming on just thinking about it.

But the video may also offer a good “teachable moment” about the warning signs of stroke, the brain clots or bleeds that kill more Americans every year than anything except cancer and heart disease. The American Stroke Association’s warning signs are here, and they are:

I asked Dr. Randie M. Black-Schaffer, medical director of the stroke program at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, whether the video looked like a stroke in the making.

“Yes,” she replied, “she is exhibiting a fluent aphasia, suggesting dysfunction in the posterior left side of her brain. This can be due to various problems, including but not limited to stroke or TIA.” (TIA, or a Transient Ischemic Attack, is also known as a “mini-stroke” or “warning stroke,” and can signal danger of a real stroke.)

“Seeking medical evaluation is definitely in order,” Dr. Black-Schaffer said.

Dr. Lee Schwamm of Massachusetts General Hospital agreed: “This is a great teachable moment, and anyone no matter what their age who starts speaking like that is potentially having a stroke. 911 should have been called immediately, and i assume it was, and she should have been transported to the nearest stroke center in the area.”

I’ve just posted a special report on stroke here. Here’s its bottom line: Stroke treatment has advanced in recent years, but not as much as hoped, and the greatest advances by far are for stroke patients who seek treatment fast. If I had Serene Branson’s symptom, I’d be calling 911 before the cameras stopped rolling.

By the way the Los Angeles Times reports here:

Medical experts appearing on TV news shows pointed to her slurred speech as evidence that she might indeed have suffered a mild brain attack. The CBS Los Angeles station for which Branson works, however, said that she now feels fine and has had a follow-up visit with her doctor for tests. It also has removed the video from its website.

Rev. Peter Gomes: May Stroke Not Silence This Ringing Harvard Voice

If you’re religious, now is a good time to pray that stroke will not silence one of the best-known orators of our time: Harvard’s Rev. Peter J. Gomes.

According to the Harvard Crimson, a colleague says that Rev. Gomes, 68, has been able to communicate with visitors since his stroke on Friday but “will not be preaching in the near future.”
And The Boston Globe says here that “’There are signs of improvement, both in his ability to speak and in his physical response,’’’ said Wendel Meyer, a longtime friend and an administrator and preacher at the church.”

Rev. Gomes, a Baptist minister, is considered one of the country’s most prominent preachers, and has written several popular books. He’s long been a central figure in religion at Harvard; and though he’d been planning to retire in 2012, that date may have to be moved up, colleagues say.

I’ve asked Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital for a specialist to speak broadly about speech recovery from stroke, and am hoping for inspiring examples from history of orators who returned to the podium. But for now, I’d like to share a flashback of Rev. Gomes’s mellifluous powers. This is from a story I wrote for The New York Times way back in 1998, about a special sermon he delivered to graduating seniors:

‘You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren’t ready to go,” Mr. Gomes, gowned in cherry red, told more than 1,000 seniors in genteelly ringing tones that called to mind a cross between a Shakespearean actor and the sitcom character Frasier.

”The president is about to bid you into the fellowship of educated men and women, and you know,” he paused and slowed, ”just — how — dumb — you — really — are.”

He paused again for the cheers of agreement.

”And worse than that, the world — and your parents in particular — are going to expect that you will now be among the brightest and best,” Mr. Gomes continued. ”But you know that you can no longer fool all the people even some of the time. By noontime today, you will be out of here. By tomorrow, you will be history. By Saturday, you will be toast. That’s a fact — no exceptions, no extensions.”

Having stated the problem, the minister moved quickly to alleviate it, promising students that their best years were yet to come, and that God would be with them.

”The future is God’s gift to you,” Mr. Gomes said. ”God will not let you stumble or fall. God has not brought you this far to this place to abandon you or leave you here alone and afraid. The God of Israel never stumbles, never sleeps, never goes on sabbatical.”

He added, ”Thus, my beloved and bewildered young friends, do not be afraid.”

Mr. Gomes concluded with a benediction: ”God grant you life until your work is done, and work until your life is over.”

Why To Exercise Today: Avoid Stroke, Or Recover From It

Dr. Beth Frates and her dad, Donald Pegg

Personal inspiration today from Dr. Beth Frates, Certified Wellness Coach and Assistant Director of
Medical Education at the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, Harvard Medical School:

Twenty-five years ago, my father could not exercise. All the years of neglecting his body and soul caught up to him as he lay in the hospital bed with tubes protruding from his nose, mouth, and arms. My father’s wake-up call was a heart attack and a stroke that caused paralysis on the right side of his body. Determined to get better, he worked hard at physical therapy and at home for one year. This life-changing event sparked a revamping of my father’s lifestyle. He started a low-fat, low-salt diet and swore off cookies, cakes, as well as candies. Since that fateful event 25 years ago, my father has been exercising five days a week for at least a half an hour. These days, he chases after his grandchildren and their pets.

My father’s strong will and determination are an inspiration to me. Many days, the memory of his struggle and the commitment he made to regular exercise are just enough to get me going. On other days, the fear of a stroke pushes me out the door. On most days, the love of jogging is my sole motivator. Regardless of the spark that ignites the fire under my feet, I am grateful for the opportunity to experience the endorphins that come with a half-an-hour work out!