Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Natasha Richardson dies from her brain injury

I don't know much about Natasha Richardson; I've never seen any of the movies she's been in. But when I first heard that she'd gotten hurt during a ski accident on Monday, I was consumed by the story. What had she hit her head on? What were her symptoms? What type of injury was it? What part of her brain was hurt? Anytime I hear about someone sustaining a brain injury, I want to know more. I relate. Max had serious brain damage at birth from a stroke, a bilateral one that affected both sides of his brain.

It seems that after the actress's accident, according to a statement released by the Canadian resort where she'd been skiing, she did not show any visible sign of injury. An hour later, she wasn't feeling well. A day later, she was pronounced brain dead. Two days later, she was dead.

This is tragic. It's also a serious reminder to me of how unpredictable brain injuries are. Doctors know a lot about the brain, but they don't know much, much more. The brain largely remains a mystery, especially when it comes to treating trauma. That was particularly hard for me to accept during the first couple of weeks after Max was born. I wanted the doctors in the NICU to help heal my baby's brain. Out of my head with grief, I screamed things like, "WHY CAN'T YOU DO SOMETHING FOR HIM?" Not possible.

This is just one reason why stem-cell research is so important, and why it's an amazing thing that Obama has lifted the ban on federal funding for it.

Guess what Dave is doing this weekend? Uh-huh: He's going skiing. He'll be on a business trip in Canada and plans to hit Whistler (not where Richardson was). I'm not going to stop him, but I am making him buy a helmet. You hardly ever see any adult skiers wearing them; maybe now that will change.

Tonight, my heart goes out to Natasha Richardson's family.


  1. Wasn't that a sad story? And poor you, with your husband out skiing! But I'm sure Dave is having a great, safe time.
    As a side note, I may use Richardson's story in my next meeting with (or attack on, however you look at it) Daniel's school. His teacher mentioned in passing two weeks ago that he fell and hit his head on the side of a toilet the week earlier. I was shocked and furious that I was never notified! Even if he hadn't had a stroke, they should know enough to tell me when my child hits his head on a hard surface. If I had known, I would have immediately brought him to the ER to be examined. Just as in poor Ms. Richardson's case, a seemingly mild injury can in fact be very serious.

  2. I'm so very very sad about this. I thought about writing a post, but couldn't muster up the energy. Since you've posted about it, I thought I'd share here.

    A close relative of mine who works in the entertainment business had the good fortune to work on a project with Ms. Richardson last year (and got to meet her dashing husband).

    Said that she was the ultimate professional---on time, prepared, no divaness, kind to the "support" staff (which my relative considers to be the ultimate mark of a good person in the entertainment biz---she deals with a lot of celebs and many of them treat subordinates like dirt in front of others).

    Her hubby was there for the week of rehearsals and relative said that the two were friendly, down-to-earth, and obviously very close and connected.

    I'm a little ticked that for the last two days one anchor at our po-dunk news station has continuously announced, "Actor Liam Neeson's Wife is on Life Support" or "Vanessa Redgrave's Daughter Suffered a Head Injury" et al. Feh. As if she wasn't an accomplished woman in her own right.

    I've been a fan and followed her career since the horrid "The Handmaid's Tail", and this really makes me sad.

    Thanks so much for posting about it.

  3. The ultimate traumatic brain injury--she apparently was bleeding between the skull and brain. I just don't get how it happened--she was on the BEGINNER's slope.

    This will probably make helmets more common when skiing. My boys are too uncoordinated to ski (plus it's too expensive, we couldn't afford it) but they do love to go tubing, which we do a couple of times a year without fail. We don't use helmets either which, when you think about it, is probably very stupid because we're going like bats outta hell down that mountainside in those tubes. I guess that's gonna change.

    I am sickened and saddened by this event. I can't tell you how depressed it makes me feel. One moment, you can be having a blast with your family on a holiday, and next minute--boom!--you're dead and your babies are crying. Life sucks sometimes.

  4. Yes, it was very shocking, and I'm glad your husband will be wearing a helmet. I try not to live in fear, but it *is* scary how quickly your life can change, or end.

  5. They have been now saying that there was no 'injury', as in she didn't hit her head. So I wonder if she had an aneurysm. I have to go get my head scanned on occasion, because my family history is FULL of aneurysms. The closest relatives being my maternal grandmother (now deceased) and my father having one at the age of 24. Strange that all I have in my family is that and strokes...So scary.
    My heart breaks for her husband (whom I love) and her two boys.

  6. I have a similar fascination with the brain and trying to understand how/why it works. My oldest son had a brain tumor 2 years ago, and despite all the reassurances that he was in the clear, it started to grow back. I was very frustrated with the neurosurgeon's cavalier "it is what it is" attitude, about Reilly's struggles but now I get it - it really IS what it is. We've gotten used to things I thought I would never wrap my head around.

    I've really been enjoying your blog. Thank you for your honesty.

  7. I must admit I am a fan of Natasha Richardson, because she was in one of my favorite movies...."The Parent Trap". I told my girls this morning about her death, and reminded them both that lie is very precious, and that they are blessed.

  8. one of my worst fears when on the slopes is getting hurt. adrienne and i have been wearing helmets for at least 10 years, and at first, before their popularity, we were made fun of especially by children. (at that time, only toddlers were wearing helmets on the slopes)

    here are the advantages of a helmet:

    1. they protect you if you fall.
    2. they keep your head very warm and protected from the elements.
    3. they keep your goggles in place.

    i have taken some nasty falls while skiing/snowboarding, and in particular, the helmet saved my life once. i am so glad i had one, and i am an advocate for head gear for any sport.

    may natasha rest in peace.

  9. I was like you--I refused to turn the radio down even though it was my turn to order at the drive thru! Ack!

    I am so sorry to hear about this and you are right--brain injury is unpredictable. I honestly think that in the next twenty years we are going to be able to do so much more about brain injury/spinal cord damage. I look forward to that time.

  10. Good for you Ellen. For highlighting the dangers and safeguards for traumatic brain injuries, and for making sure that all your readers get the point of the importance of using helmets. You have done a good job of public service (and teaching) and will probably be responsible for saving brains and lives in the future. Oh yeah - between my husband and I we have had about 18 traumatic brain injuries that couldn't be avoided, and suffer many disabilities as a result. Bravo! Barbara from Boston

  11. I was shocked to hear this.

    I was made more fearful of even the smallest bumps on the head for all of my kids. You just never, never know.

  12. That is such a sad story re: Natasha Richardson and I was so glad to hear when Obama lifted the ban on stem-cell research as well.
    And don't worry Dave will not be out of place wearing a helmet in Whistler. We don't live very far away from the mountain and it's a pretty common practice to wear helmets up there.

  13. Natasha was certainly memorable as an actress; i loved her in the Parent Trap and the White Countess... RIP


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