As I write this, news reporters are lining up to report that a simple fall on a beginner’s ski slope has resulted in the death of actress Natasha Richardson. She seemed fine at the time of the accident, was released by the medics on scene and started complaining of a headache a couple hours later.
Her condition deteriorated to the point that her family reportedly removed her from life support (which means she was ON LIFE SUPPORT).
While this is a tragedy for her family and a loss for the theaterical family as well, I hope that this sets another example of why head injuries must be taken more seriously by individuals and medical teams alike.
I speak from experience here, though not the tragic type of experience that Richardson’s family has been living through.
Back in about 1980 I was living in a an apartment complex where most of us could not park our vehicles indoors. We parked in the lots outside our buildings and dealt with the weather, whatever may come. It was a common way of living- I never parked a car under cover until 1992.
One late winter day I was on my way to work. I do not know exactly what happened but I ended up slipping on the ice/snow mixture by my car and making a 1 point landing on my face. My glasses broke, the frame embedding in the skin right next to my eye.
I went to the ER, where they stitched me up and did xrays. I was worked on by the chief of the ER who talked with me throughout the stay, assessing my mental state. I was fine.
Family called me the rest of the day to make sure I did not exhibit signs of a concussion. I didn’t. The next day I returned to work.
It was there that I started showing signs that something was not right. By the afternoon, I was saying to people that I could not think clearly enough to complete a sentence. I would get to the verb and forget what the subject had been. And, yes, I could analyze the problem that specifically.
My co-workers dismissed it as my body reacting to the stress of the accident. They told me to go home and take it easy that weekend. It was Friday afternoon.
The next thing I remember was Wednesday about lunch time. No memory of how I got through the Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday has ever returned to me. From talking and observations, I know that I grocery shopped, went to work and night school, apparently went to a bar Saturday night. I appeared normal -if a bit quiet- to those around me.
The lasting experience from that, however, was that the forgetfulness and confusion while talking never completely went away. If I speak with you, I may still pause mid-sentence; I’m trying to recall the complete thought I had. While trying to get the words from my brain to my mouth they often disappear. Thanksfullly this is not the case when the words are heading for my fingertips. I am a lot more talkative online, I think, because of this.
And my point: whenever someone you know has a simple head injury AND APPEARS FINE do not dismiss it. Get them checked out as soon as possible. Now there are CTs available that were likely not a common option in 1980. Pay attention to complaints by the victim for several days afterward an accident.
Head injuries are NEVER “simple injuries”. Remember that, please.