Natasha Richardson’s Ski Accident: Just How Bad is Her Head Injury?

Tony-winning actress Natasha Richardson suffered a head injury the other day while skiing in Canada, but it’s unclear just how severe her condition is. Reports are that the 45-year-old actress fell down during a beginner’s lesson and originally felt fine, but then started feeling ill an hour or so later and was taken to a nearby hospital.

It’s suspected that she may have had internal bleeding in the head or neck, which can cause such symptoms. Some stories speculated that Richardson is brain dead or suffering what’s been called “talk and die” syndrome (seeming fine at first, but then having a delayed reaction as blood builds up and puts pressure on the brain). One doctor at NYU Medical Center (who has not treated Richardson) says that Richardson’s symptoms seem consistent with epidural hemorrhage, a buildup of blood between the skull and the brain. Other news sources have used terms such as epidural hematoma or subdural hematoma to describe Richardson’s condition.

What is known is that Natasha Richardson is now at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital; her sister Joely Richardson and mother Vanessa Redgrave have been seen entering the Upper East Side hospital. Richardson’s husband, fellow actor Liam Neeson, left a film shoot in Toronto to be with her and is now presumably in New York.

It seems strange that a person with a serious head injury would be moved such a distance… of course her family wants to be near her, but is it a good idea to transport someone in what may be critical condition? I’d guess Richardson is hooked up to all kinds of tubes and breathing equipment. And if she was able to be transported, does that mean that her condition is better or worse than has been reported?

We’ll have to wait until her family decides to make a statement about her condition and prognosis. It may be that they are waiting to see what course the injury takes before saying anything. In some cases a person with a head injury can have dire symptoms, but those can decrease as swelling in the brain (if that’s what Richardson has) decreases, either on its own or due to drainage and other medical interventions.

(On a related note, the New York Times notes today that Richardson’s accident has put new life in the debate over whether skiiers should wear helmets (the actress was not wearing one at the time of her accident).

For those not familiar with Natasha Richardson, she has been in movies ranging from “Nell” (with Jodie Foster and Liam Neeson) to “The Parent Trap” (with Dennis Quaid and the young Lindsay Lohan), and has also acted on Broadway (winning a Tony award for “Cabaret.”) Her mother is the actress Vanessa Redgrave, and her father is the late British director Tony Richardson, known for films including “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.”

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