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Published:March 20th, 2009 10:07 EST
Autopsy Reveals That Richardson Died from Cerebral Hemorrhaging

Autopsy Reveals That Richardson Died from Cerebral Hemorrhaging

By Christopher HIllenbrand

On Thursday, an autopsy on the late Natasha Richardson confirmed that the actress died from bleeding in her skull: a result from her fall on the ski slopes.

The coroner deemed her death to be an accident although brain trauma experts reasoned that had she received treatment sooner, she might`ve survived. Unfortunately, Richardson`s symptoms didn`t seem life-threatening until hours later. She reached the hospital in Montreal four hours after the accident: a period doctors said was far too long for someone in her condition to go without emergency medical treatment.

Richardson passed away at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan on Wednesday after being transferred there from Montreal`s St. Sacre Coeur hospital on Tuesday. Exactly what her head struck, causing the fatal injury, remained uncertain on Thursday. Information on her treatment at both hospitals has been kept confidential.

The cause of death was ruled epidural hematoma, which is characterized by bleeding between the skull and the brain`s covering. This form of massive hemorrhaging is typically a result of a skull fracture, which can rapidly develop into blood clots that apply pressure to the brain. Pressure from the clots can force the brain to dislodge and press downward toward the brain stem. Without critical emergency surgery, this force on the brain stem can cut off involuntary bodily functions, such as breathing.

Dr. Keith Siller from the New York University Langone Medical Center said: "This is a very treatable condition if you`re aware of what the problem is and the patient is quickly tranferred to a hospital. But there is very little time to correct this."

Normally, a CT scan can determine if there`s any bleeding, bruising, or any onset of brain swelling in the patient being tested.

If the brain swells as an effect of the bleeding, surgeons usually cut off part of the patient`s skull to allow room for it to expand. Going untreated, the swelling often results in coma or death.

Dr. Edward Aulisi, a neurosurgery chief at Washington Hospital Center in D.C. said: "Once you have more swelling, it causes more trauma which causes more swelling. It`s a vicious cycle because everything`s inside a closed space."

Concerning what to do when one believes they may have suffered brain injury, Aulisi cautioned: "If there`s any question in your mind whatsoever, you get a head CT. It`s the best twenty seconds you ever spent in your life."

Details have arisen from the time the hotel initially summoned for an ambulance to take Richardson to the hospital. Reportedly, the first ambulance that arrived at the resort was called off.

Yves Coderre, the director of operations at the emergency response service that dispatched the ambulance to the resort, told news sources that upon review of Monday`s call log, he found that the first 911 call at Richardson`s behest was received at 12:43 P.M. on Monday.

Paramedics reached the mountain 17 minutes later, but when asked if she needed further medical attention, Richardson denied care. They told the director that they witnessed the still-cognizant actress being hoisted onto a sled and taken to the resort`s on-site infirmary.

A second 911 call was made at 3 P.M. by Richardson from her luxury suite at the resort. By then, her condition worsened. According to Coderre, when paramedics arrived, "(Richardson) was conscious and they could talk to her. But she showed instability." Responders tended to her for 30 minutes before they transported her to a hospital 40 minutes away by car.

On Thursday, Employees at the Mont Tremblant ski resort denied commenting to reporters about the details surrounding the actress` death.

Reports addressed that Richardson had not been wearing a ski helmet at the time of her accident, posing the question of whether that was the salient factor in her untimely death.

Skiiers partaking of the idyllic beauty of Mont Tremblant`s slopes swore that Richardson served as the example of what could happen if don`t wear a helmet while skiing.

Nathalie Beauleu, one of the skiiers on the very same pass that the actress suffered the fatal accident, said: "I bought a helmet yesterday after I heard. My daughters always wear them, but now my husband and I will, too."

As a result of the star`s demise, government officials in the province of Quebec are in the process of enacting a new law requiring all skiiers to wear helmets. In a tragic coincidence, E.R. doctors in the province urged lawmakers to pass a law making head protection mandatory on the ski slopes three weeks ago.


But there are always those thick-headed individuals who don`t heed the warning that proper headwear is necessary when one engages in recreational activities.

Addressing why he wasn`t wearing a helmet when a tragedy occurred only several feet away from him days earlier, Jacques Garnier said: "I haven`t worn one up to now and I`m OK. My kids wear them, for sure, though."

Richardson, who was 45, was skiing on a beginner`s trail in the Mont Tremblant ski resort near Montreal when she suffered an otherwise common fall and got back up. It wasn`t until an hour later when she reported she was having headaches.

Natasha Richardson`s health deteriorated after being admitted to the hospital on Monday evening. With her family, including her husband, actor Liam Neeson, at her bedside, she was pronounced brain dead late Tuesday evening and was taken off life support on Wednesday. She is immediately survived by her husband and their two sons, Michael, 13, and Daniel, 12.

Broadway theaters dimmed their lights at 8 P.M. on Thursday in memoriam for Richardson: a time when productions traditionally begin

Since news of her death spread, fans and friends expressed their heartfelt condolences for the Tony award winning actress taken long before her time.

Meryl Streep commented: "Tash was the warm sun in the center of a large constellation of family, friends, all of those lucky enough to know her - she is irreplaceable in our lives; she gave us so much, so generously - her legacy is the love that connects us all."

Lindsey Lohan, Richardson`s precocious co-star on "The Parent Trap", said: "She was a wondeful woman and actress and treated me like I was her own. I didn`t see much of her over the years, but I will miss her. My heart goes out to the family. This is a tragic loss."

The general public has also shown a tremendous outpouring of sympathy for the family and friends of the radiant talent who was as plucky and classy as many of the roles she played.

Those requesting to donate flowers to her memorial have been informed that the family would prefer if the money used for bouquets would instead be donated to the amfAR foundation for AIDS research. Richardson, whose famous father Tony Richardson died of complications from an AIDS-related disease in 1991, was a donor for a foundation since she lost her father and served on the foundation`s board of trustees since 2006.