Could Natasha Richardson Have Been Saved By A Helicopter?

NEW YORK (AP) -- As a steady stream of celebrities pay their last respects to Natasha Richardson, questions are arising over whether a medical helicopter might have been able to save the ailing actress.

The province of Quebec lacks a medical helicopter system, common in the United States and other parts of Canada, to airlift stricken patients to major trauma centers. Montreal's top head trauma doctor said Friday that may have played a role in Richardson's death.

"It's impossible for me to comment specifically about her case, but what I could say is ... driving to Mont Tremblant from the city (Montreal) is a 2 1/2-hour trip, and the closest trauma center is in the city. Our system isn't set up for traumas and doesn't match what's available in other Canadian cities, let alone in the States," said Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Centre, which represents six of Montreal's hospitals.

While Richardson's initial refusal of medical treatment cost her two hours, she also had to be driven to two hospitals. She didn't arrive at a specialized hospital in Montreal until about four hours after the second 911 call from her hotel room at the Mont Tremblant resort, according to a timeline published by Canada's The Globe and Mail newspaper.

Not being airlifted directly to a trauma center could have cost Richardson crucial moments, Razek said.

"A helicopter is obviously the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B," he said.

After Richardson fell and hit her head on a beginner ski slope at the Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec, the first ambulance crew left upon spotting a sled taking the still-conscious actress away to the resort's on-site clinic.

A second 911 call was made two hours later from Richardson's luxury hotel room as the actress deteriorated. Medics tended to her for a half-hour before taking her to a hospital about a 40-minute drive away.

Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Ste-Agathe does not specialize in head traumas, so her speedy transfer to Sacre Coeur Hospital in Montreal was critical, said Razek.

"It's one of the classic presentations of head injuries, `talking and dying,' where they may lose consciousness for a minute, but then feel fine," said Razek.

Richardson, 45, died Wednesday at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. The New York City medical examiner's office ruled her death was an accident.

On Friday evening, Richardson's husband, Liam Neeson, looked distraught but grateful for the outpouring of sympathy as he greeted grieving family members and friends who attended a private viewing for his wife.

Neeson was the last to leave the viewing at the Upper East Side's American Irish Historical Society, where he was joined by the couple's sons, - Micheal, 13, and Daniel, 12 - as well as Richardson's mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and sister, Joely Richardson. An array of famous friends came to express their sadness about the family's sudden loss.

Neeson hugged friends as he left the society's building at 8:40 p.m., after more than six hours of receiving condolences from friends including Mike Nichols, Diane Sawyer, Matthew Modine, Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Also among the stream of visitors were Kenneth Cole, Laura Linney, Fisher Stevens, Howard Stern, Stanley Tucci, Julianna Margulies and Mathilde Krim of the American Foundation of AIDS Research - amfAR. Richardson had served on the charity's board of trustees since 2006.

"She looked incredibly beautiful," Krim said, adding that everyone appeared to be in shock and Neeson looked distraught as he received everybody.

Theaters in London's West End dimmed their lights Friday to mark Richardson's death, just as Broadway theaters did Thursday. In a tribute to the stage and screen actress, the lights were lowered before the curtains went up on evening performances.

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  • by Anonymous on Mar 28, 2009 at 03:37 PM
    A simple "helmet" could have helped.
  • by Dave Location: Wilson on Mar 27, 2009 at 09:10 PM
    This is absolutely a indication of why you do not want Universal Healthcare. A mostly rural Province does not have ONE helicopter?? They flew her by private jet to New York in hopes they could do something. You do not "post" helicopters everywhere?? They can actually fly to you fast!! Certainly faster than a ambulance travelling down a curvy, ice covered mountain road. In a Universal Medical system there is no Heart Hospitals or Cancer Centers. There is no research to find new cures and treatment options. There is no pharmaceutical innovation. Recently a London newspaper said their Medical Governing body has refused a new breast cancer medicine and stomach cancer medicine because they were too expensive and the patients lives were not worth it. This is what Obama is proposing unless we all stop this in its tracks. Natasha's unfortunate death could actually save us all.
  • by Barbara Location: Beulaville NC on Mar 26, 2009 at 10:54 AM
    Why dwell on what could have happeded if Only? Let her and her family rest in peace.
  • by ~ALPHA female~ Location: O84P on Mar 25, 2009 at 09:36 PM
  • by J Location: Gville on Mar 23, 2009 at 06:26 AM
    Honeslty, this should NOT even be a story. Maybe it COULD have saved her life but spectulating and talking trash about it ISN'T going to bring her back.
  • by Kimo Location: Belhaven on Mar 22, 2009 at 12:28 PM
    We can only wonder if she would still be with us if she had stayed home instead of going skiing. Are we going to start posting helicopters everywhere someone might fall down and hit their head?? wow!! Quick - buy Helicpoter stock.
  • by reality Location: gville on Mar 22, 2009 at 12:17 PM
    To Brenda the surgeon is the not the Master either. It was her time and she will be missed... I loved her movies.
  • by brenda Location: greenville on Mar 22, 2009 at 10:37 AM
    To reality in Gville, rapid transport via helicopter to a trauma center with a surgon might have saved her life.
  • by well on Mar 22, 2009 at 09:37 AM
    she seemed fine at first, thats what led to her demise. she had no inclination probably that she should get medical attention immediately. had she shown signs of serious injury, intervention might have come sooner. it would be good to have faster access to a hospital in an injury prone area like a ski resort. i guess the only thing anyone can do is learn from this tragedy, if someone takes a hard hit to the head, make them see a doctor--severe head injuries cause swelling in the brain which lead to death, and isnt always noticeable right away, as in this case.
  • by Buzz Location: Mill Creek on Mar 22, 2009 at 07:38 AM
    No disrespect for the lady or her loved ones, but this kicks up the socialized medicine debate. We want a medical system like Canada and other socialist countries have, THINK about it. We have helicopters available right here in little 'ole eastern NC, and they SAVE lives EVERYDAY. And I know we dis' our local hospitals but they still do alot of good. Buzz-
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