A Tragic Death: Natasha Richardson

How sad it was to learn last night that Natasha Richardson had died. And not just sad, but scary, too...

I can't help but wonder if somehow something so tragic could have been avoided. That's what scares me...it makes me realize the importance of being prepared and knowing what to do in case of an unexpected health emergency. That preparation could be the literal difference between life and death. Of course, it's not yet known if this particular event would have turned out differently had Richardson gotten to a hospital sooner, or done something different, so it's extremely hard to speculate right now. I'm sure as time passes and the autopsy results are known that more information will be available.

Here's what I think are the important things to know: If you do suffer a head injury always seek medical attention (even if you think it's nothing). It's possible to feel fine at first. This is known as a "lucid interval" where, for about an hour, the patient acts fine but all the while, the brain is slowly and silently swelling or bleeding. By the time real, visible symptoms show up- among them dizziness, vomiting and vision disturbance - it is a true emergency and there may not be enough time to treat the injury.

MSNBC.com quotes Dr. Edward Aulisi, chief of neurosurgery at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. as saying that an epidural hemotoma, which is bleeding between the brain and skull and most likely what killed Richardson, is a very treatable condition - if you're aware of what the problem is and the patient is quickly transferred to a hospital.

If you fall and hit your head (even if it's not hard) and there is any doubt - any at all - get yourself checked. A head CT only takes a few minutes. Something else I would add is if you choose to do nothing, don't stay alone - make sure there's someone with you that can observe you for at least a few hours.

Scarier still was the fact that she was on a beginner, or "bunny" slope, and that when first reported, all seemed to be just fine. I am not a skier, but many experts do recommend wearing helmets and say they significantly can reduce brain injury risk.

I sometimes tend to downplay medical situations, insisting that "all is fine," because I don't want to be a worrier or hypochondriac. But now I think I will pay more attention to things like this.

How about you?


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