There had been some rumors circulating that perhaps Natasha Richardson died of a brain aneurysm that just happened to coincide with her ski tumble, but the autopsy report indicates otherwise. They say she died from bleeding in the skull caused by the fall.
The medical examiner ruled her death an accident, and doctors said she might have survived had she received immediate treatment. However, nearly four hours elapsed between her lethal fall at her admission to a hospital.
The Tony-winning actress suffered from an epidural hematoma, which causes bleeding between the skull and the brain’s covering, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office.
Such bleeding is often caused by a skull fracture, and it can quickly produce a blood clot that puts pressure on the brain. That pressure can force the brain downward, pressing on the brain stem that controls breathing and other vital functions.
Patients with such an injury often feel fine immediately after being hurt because symptoms from the bleeding may take time to emerge.
“This is a very treatable condition if you’re aware of what the problem is and the patient is quickly transferred to a hospital,” said Dr. Keith Siller of New York University Langone Medical Center. “But there is very little time to correct this.”
To prevent coma or death, surgeons frequently cut off part of the skull to give the brain room to swell.
“Once you have more swelling, it causes more trauma which causes more swelling,” said Dr. Edward Aulisi, neurosurgery chief at Washington Hospital Center in the nation’s capital. “It’s a vicious cycle because everything’s inside a closed space.” …
A CT scan can detect bleeding, bruising or the beginning of swelling in the brain. The challenge is for patients to know whether to seek one.
“If there’s any question in your mind whatsoever, you get a head CT,” Aulisi advised. “It’s the best 20 seconds you ever spent in your life.”
So obviously this is a horrible and tragic and heart-breaking situation, but if something good can come from this, maybe it’s a lesson. I don’t know exactly what kind of fall Natasha took, but I know I’ve had many a tumble on a ski slope, had a headache, and would never have thought to go to the hospital. But based on the fact that the paramedics were dispatched to the scene, this was maybe a little more serious than one of my falls. However, I can completely understand feeling okay and being like, “No, no, I don’t want to make this some big drama, I’ll be fine.” I don’t think I would have done anything differently in her position.
Not anymore! If the professionals on the scene recommend I go to a hospital to get checked out, I’m always saying yes in the future, drama or not. If anything good can possibly come of such a horrendous tragedy, maybe it’s that the dissemination of this information will save a few lives.