11 Times Reporters Had Medical Emergencies On Live TV

For a broadcast journalist, being comfortable on camera is just as important as having stellar news acumen. Knowing that thousands of people are watching, and maybe even millions depending on the network, would certainly make most people uncomfortable. But reporters seemingly take it all in stride as they bring their viewers the local and national headlines of the day. 

While the occasional news blooper might happen on air, or bloopers by weathermen that are hard to stop watching – heck, even strange things that weren't actually supposed to be filmed on TV — if a disaster can happen, it's likely to happen on live television at some point. For a number of reporters, a seemingly normal newscast ended up with them having a medical emergency on air for the whole world to see — an experience they probably wished hadn't happened on camera. And while some were able to immediately laugh it off, others left viewers shocked, stunned, and more than a little worried for their health and well-being. 

Jessica Robb

In January 2023, CTV reporter Jessica Robb was in the middle of a field segment, during which things seemed to be going smoothly until the reporter abruptly stopped, swallowed hard, and appeared to gather herself for a moment. When she continued, she began immediately stumbling over her words, and the alarm in her eyes was enough to let viewers know that she hadn't simply skipped her morning coffee. When she became unable to continue, she apologized to anchor Nahreman Issa, saying, "I'm not feeling very well right now, and I'm about to ..." As her words trailed off, Issa took over, telling viewers they would make sure Robb was alright; the camera caught the correspondent beginning to sway before cutting back to the studio.

The exact nature of Robb's episode was not disclosed by CTV, but Robb did make a full recovery, thanking viewers for their support on X (formerly known as Twitter). The clip of the incident went viral, and of course, there was a subset of users who took the opportunity to shame Robb for having gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, which they insisted was responsible for her illness. In her statement, Robb put these users right into their place. "My understanding of my own medical background provides a reasonable explanation for what happened," she wrote. "The situation was in no way related to the Covid-19 vaccine." 

Julie Chin

Tulsa, Oklahoma, news anchor Julie Chin found herself struggling to read the words on her teleprompter during a broadcast in 2022, and the way in which she was struggling — mashing words together, seemingly failing to recognize other words, and repeating herself — was ominous. She seemed to recover when she went off the teleprompter, telling viewers, "I'm sorry, something is going on with me this morning, and I apologize to everybody," before throwing it over to the meteorologist. But for a moment there, it appeared as though Chin might be having a stroke — and that may have been at least partially accurate. 

Posting on Facebook several days after the incident, Chin wrote, "The past few days are still a little bit of a mystery, but my doctors believe I had the beginnings of a stroke live on the air Saturday morning." She shared that even before she was having trouble speaking, she had partially lost vision in one eye, and one of her arms had begun to go numb; her co-workers had called 911, and she was tended to immediately. She took the opportunity to educate viewers on the warning signs of stroke, which bear repeating and can be remembered with the acronym BE FAST: Balance (loss thereof), Eyes (changes in vision), Face (drooping of the face, especially on one side), Arms (one arm may drop), Speech (slurring or jumbling words), and Time (to call 911). Fortunately, Chin made a full recovery.

Alissa Carlson

Viewers of Los Angeles CBS station KCAL got a heck of a scare at the very top of a March 2023 broadcast. Anchors Rachel Kim and Michelle Medina began the broadcast by priming viewers for some good news from meteorologist Alissa Carlson, implying that a few days of sun were on the way — but their chipper mood went right out the window when, immediately after they handed off to her, Carlson fainted dead away, dropping to the floor behind her desk without speaking a single word. The understandably alarmed anchors cut to a commercial break, and there was certainly cause for their alarm; nine years prior, Carlson had become ill on the air due to a leaky valve in her heart. Fortunately, this time, the reason for her collapse was relatively benign.

It was determined that Carlson had suffered from a vasovagal syncope, a sudden and drastic drop in blood pressure to an overstimulated Vagus nerve, which are some of the most crucial in your entire nervous system. After her recovery, she told CBS This Morning that she'd been feeling fine up until moments before the incident, which she chalked up to having drank a ton of coffee and skipped breakfast (via CBS News). She lamented her decision to ignore how she felt and then keep going. Dr. Jon LaPook, who was also on the show, said, "That's the worst thing you can do. You want to get flat so your heart is at the same level as your head."

Brooke Graham

In 2013, Utah CBS affiliate correspondent Brooke Graham was sent into the mountains to receive some pointers in cross-country skiing from members of The Utah Nordic Alliance, which runs youth and adult programs centered on the sport. Shortly after taking over from her colleagues, Graham seemed to get just a touch flustered — and then she passed out, falling flat onto her back. Then, there came a twist — Graham promptly sat up, responded in the affirmative when her interview subject asked if she was alright, and continued with the interview.

She finished the segment with no further difficulty, and in a subsequent post on her blog, she revealed the reason behind her sudden swoon, which actually makes a lot of sense if you're familiar with the effects of altitude. "I am known to faint any time I am in high altitudes and get too cold," she wrote, explaining that while she tried to alert the producer that she wasn't feeling well, the message wasn't relayed in time. When she received the cue to start the segment, she wrote that she "had to give it my best try even though I could feel my consciousness slipping away. You can see on the video what happens after that!" Graham, who can only be described as a real trooper, also shared that she "laughed many times watching this video and I do not want anyone to feel bad if they find themselves chuckling as I go down like a tree in the forest."

Bob Rathbun

In December 2022, veteran Atlanta Hawks announcer Bob Rathbun was beginning his pregame segment with his co-host, NBA legend Dominique Wilkins, by his side (and, importantly, slightly in front of him). Rathbun would later tell The Athletic that he hadn't been feeling well and had vomited a time or two before the broadcast, but that he had worked while feeling crappy before and wasn't about to bail on the segment. "I was thinking, 'I know I'm going to be sick again,'" he said. "But let me just get through this ... and the next thing I remember, an EMT guy was standing in front of me."

What happened in between was startling indeed: As Wilkins began analyzing the night's matchup, Rathbun began to convulse and was visibly struggling to remain conscious while Wilkins, oblivious to the drama playing out right behind him, kept reporting. As the camera cut away, the announcer was tended to by medical staff, and later whisked to the hospital, where he spent five days being examined by doctors who would ultimately find nothing seriously wrong. Although he graciously thanked fans for their support after the incident, the jovial announcer quickly shot down any talk of retirement. "Retire? Why? I'm OK," he said. "Heavens no. I can't wait to get back. This ain't work. This is the NBA. This is so much fun ... I ain't giving this up."

Serene Branson

In 2011, CBS2 reporter Serene Branson was reporting from L.A.'s Staples Center on the results of that year's Grammy Awards when things quickly went wrong. As soon as the broadcast was handed over to her, Branson began stumbling over her words, and within mere moments there was nothing remotely inteligible coming out of her mouth, even as she continued trying to speak. The segment was quickly wrapped up as Branson received medical attention, and for the better part of a year, viewers were left unsure as to what exactly had happened.

Fortunately, it wasn't what it had appeared to be. Speaking with CBS in 2012, Branson shared that doctors concluded that she had not suffered a stroke but a migraine — and that she had previously been unaware that the symptoms of the latter can often mimic those of the former, even though as a child, she had witnessed her mother having similar epsiodes. She began accepting speaking engagements to raise awareness of the issue and called the episode "a big wake-up call to pay attention to my body and take care of my health ... I'm very mindful of what I'm eating. I'm very mindful when I travel to try and stay hydrated. I keep the migraine medicine with me."

Shaka Hislap

In July 2023, one of soccer's biggest legends, former goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, was on the pitch working as an analyst before a soccer match between Real Madrid and AC Milan. As his colleague Dan Thomas was speaking, Hislop appeared to stumble just a bit — and then fell face-first into Thomas, whose shocked reaction told viewers that Hislop was in no way fooling around. Thomas frantically called for medical staff, and the broadcast quickly cut to a commercial — but in this case, viewers fortunately didn't have to wait too long for an update. At halftime, Thomas, looking quite relieved, addressed the home audience. "It's good news," he said. "He's conscious, he's talking. I think he's a little embarrassed about it all, he's apologized profusely."

Hislop later took to X (formerly Twitter) to thank his fans for their enormous outpouring of support, although he couldn't offer much in the way of explanation for the episode. "Every so often life gives you a moment to pause, and this was mine," he said. "My response now has to be to seek out the best medical opinion I can get and listen to what my doctors have to say ... Thank you. I know now that even when we argue and disagree, I have the fullest support of each and every one of you and I am looking forward to getting back and doing what I enjoy doing most."

Julie Yoo

Channel News Asia corresponsent Julie Yoo gave viewers a scare in November 2022 as she and a colleague were reporting from Egypt, covering the United Nations' climate change talks. As the broadcast was handed over to the veteran broadcaster and her partner, they stood in silence for several seconds; one might have thought that they were unaware that their segment had begun, but this was apparently not the case. Yoo was simply in no condition to speak, as she was actively in the process of fainting — and, as live viewers looked on, she quite gracefully did just that.

The studio anchor sat puzzled for several moments before moving on to the next segment, assuring viewers that Yoo would be tended to. The station would later issue a statement explaining that Yoo had simply been dehydrated, and that this along with a touch of the old low blood sugar had precipitated her fainting spell. "She will be resting tonight and will be back on air tomorrow," the statement said. "We would like to thank everyone for their concern."

Poppy Harlow

In December 2015, CNN anchor Poppy Harlow was wrapping up a segment with a foreign correspondent, segueing into a new poll that reflected a degree of dissatisfaction on the part of Americans with then-president Obama's handling of the war on terrorism. As viewers saw a graphic with the results of the poll on their screens, they heard something a little alarming — Harlow beginning to fumble with her words, then slurring her speech, then simply gasping and falling silent. The feed quickly cut to a commercial, and when it returned to the studio, Harlow was addressing her viewers. "For all of you on Twitter who are asking if I'm okay, thank you so much," she said. "I got a little hot, and I passed out for a moment. I am fine. We're gonna take a little break, and we'll be right back."

Harlow, who was quite pregnant at the time, actually did not return that morning; she went to the hospital, where she and her unborn daughter were tended to by doctors, who pronounced them both to be in good shape. The veteran anchor bounced back in short order and gave birth to baby Sienna in April 2016.

Clara Pfeffer

In 2022, German journalist Clara Pfeffer was interviewing a politician on live television, discussing the situation with the Covid-19 pandemic in their country, and the pros and cons of vaccine mandates. As Pfeffer was in the middle of asking a question, she grayed out — unmistakably and completely. She was simply there one minute and not at all in her body the next, and as her eyes totally lost focus, she began to collapse in her chair. Her interview subject rushed to her aid, and Pfeffer, who is hypoglycemic, completely recovered — but it was a terribly scary moment, and one that was unfortunately pounced on by the anti-vaccine crowd.

Pfeffer's fainting spell was one of several featured in a viral Facebook video that was edited to suggest that (wait for it) the Covid vaccine was responsible for them. This is, of course, complete nonsense — but the video's popularity was enough to prompt the Associated Press to issue a debunking of it, pointing out that pre-existing conditions (such as Pfeffer's hypoglycemia) were in play in several of the featured clips, and that there was not (and, incidentally, still is not) any evidence to suggest that the Covid vaccine presents any significant health risks. 

Michael Rennie

Australian ABC reporter Michael Rennie had only been on his current job for about a week when he gave his co-workers, and his viewers, a scare while reporting from a Queensland meat processing plant that recently laid off hundreds of people. While images of workers toiling away were displayed onscreen, Rennie's speech simply fell apart; he went from minor stumbles over words to being rendered near speechless in just moments, and while anchor Joe O'Brien quickly cut the segment short, the feed cut briefly to Rennie with a very worrying expression on his face. 

O'Brien assured viewers that Rennie was being tended to, but the alarm on his face was not very comforting. Fortunately, it turned out that the episode was due to simple dehydration, and he was back on the air the very next day, reporting once again from the field. At the conclusion of his segment, anchor Lisa Millar couldn't help but express her relief that her colleague was feeling better. "It is terrific to hear from you. You gave us a bit of a scare yesterday," she said. Rennie responded that he was indeed back in fighting shape. "Drinking lots of water this morning and making sure I am staying hydrated," he said. "Got a little bit lost during a live [segment yesterday], but all good today."

Having emergencies on camera isn't the only thing reporters can be concerned with. Read up on the scary reality of being a journalist, or check out the bloopers that got these reporters fired.