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American Idol seizure: Makayla Brownlee collapses in medical emergency

Makayla Brownlee
Makayla Brownlee the moment before she collapsed on stage on American Idol. Pic credit: ABC

American Idol Season 18 was capped off by a surprise medical incident that looked like an epileptic seizure: Makayla Brownlee collapsed in a medical emergency.

Except we have come to learn that it was not a seizure but a panic/stress attack that led to a vasovagal episode that mimics a neurological seizure in many ways.

Makayla Brownlee has a medical condition where her body responds differently to stress.

It’s not panic, per se, but a stress-induced total body shutdown that looks like she is having a neurological short circuit like a petite or grand mal seizure.

What happened to Makayla?

During Monday’s Hawaiian episode of the reality singing competition, 17-year-old contestant Makayla Brownlee was on stage to perform the Kacey Musgraves’  hit song Rainbow, when she suddenly looked confused.

There was a pause after the introductions, and she had a strange expression before her collapse just off-stage. Her speech was compromised as she described to the judges what song she intended to sing.

When it came time for her to sing, she abruptly turned and struggled to walk off the stage. In the wings, people attended to her before the medics arrived.

She was then removed by emergency techs to be looked at by a physician.

Brownlee knew the progression of her existing condition called vasovagal syncope and had experienced this before.

In the ABC video recap of the incident below, she says:

“In seventh grade, I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope. It’s a heart condition that causes me to react to stress differently than other people, and it could cause a seizure.”

The judges react differently

What began as a normal American Idol tryout for the ticket to Hollywood soon became a medical emergency. Each judge looked horrified, but Katy Perry was at the point of tears.

Luke Bryan walked over despite her urging him to give her space.

Lionel Richie was the first judge to rush over as he watched the medics attend Makayla.

It was Perry who appeared to fret the most as she urged her fellow judges to stay back.

Her father explained more in the ABC recap video below and said: “She can’t control it. She’s embarrassed, but physically, she’s 100 percent all right. This opportunity is so important for her. I’d hate to see it inhibited in any way because she’s such a good singer. She works so hard at it.”

Clearly, moved by the incident, Perry took to Twitter during the broadcast to share some words of encouragement with Brownlee.

“Nothing to be embarrassed about, #MakaylaBrownlee. We all handle stress differently❣️ #AmericanIdol,” the Firework singer wrote.

Like a true American Idol trouper, Makayla bounced back from the setback and was able to perform.

Just a few hours after the dramatic moment, she returned to the stage and nailed the performance that brought Perry to tears and earned her a ticket to proceed to the competition’s next rounds.

American Idol airs Sunday and Monday at 8/7c on ABC.

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