Natasha Richardson’s Death Demonstrates Sad Truths about Traumatic Brain Injury

The March death in a skiing accident of Tony Award-Winning Actress Natasha Richardson, 45, came as a shock to the world. Here at MLN law our thoughts have been with her family as they endure this tragedy. While there are many sad aspects to this unfortunate accident, one of the lessons to be learned is a hard truth about traumatic brain injury.

Richardson was skiing without a helmet at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec, Canada when she took a tumble on the bunny slope. According to witnesses, she laughed about the fall and refused medical attention, even after the ski resort followed proper protocol and called for an ambulance. Immediately after the fall, she was able to make conversation and walk unassisted back to her room at the resort. It was only an hour later that she began complaining of head pain. After that, her health began deteriorating rapidly and reports say that she was brain dead soon after. She died after transport to a New York hospital.

Richardson’s death demonstrated a medical phenomenon called the “talk and die” syndrome. These patients suffer an apparently minor head injury, but then quickly degenerate and die very shortly after due to intercranial causes. According to the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, “talk and die” syndrome patients only make up about 2.6% of all traumatic brain injury patients, but that relatively small number should not preclude patients from getting immediate medical attention after any head injury, no matter how seemingly minor or trivial.

What exactly is traumatic brain injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), is caused when any sudden trauma – such as a blow, a stab, or, as in Richardson’s case, hitting the head as the result of a fall – causes damage to the brain. Symptoms after the injury can be mild, moderate or severe and the patient may remain conscious or slip into unconsciousness for just a few seconds. Unlike Richardson’s case, not all TBI’s result in death, and some people remain untreated, unaware that their life is being effected by a serious injury.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “other symptoms of mild TBI include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking.“

People suffering from moderate to severe TBI may have additional symptoms such as, “headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, an inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.”

If you or anyone you know in Georgia has experienced ill-effects, up to and including death, as the result of a traumatic brain injury, you may have legal recourse. Call MLN Law at (404) 531-9700 for more information.