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March 19th, 2009
05:39 PM ET

Head trauma is nothing to be taken lightly

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

The death of actress Natasha Richardson is tragic. A beautiful, vital 45-year-old goes for a ski lesson and falls. She gets up, declines medical care and goes back to her hotel. From there, the story takes a terrible turn. She becomes ill, and is transported to one hospital, then another and then finally to a third hospital near her home, where she dies two days later from brain injuries caused by an epidural hematoma. Her family, friends and fans are shocked. How can something as innocent as a ski fall  kill you? Because, neurologists say, the brain, although complex, is a delicate organ. It's very vulnerable and it needs to be taken seriously. And even a bump on the head can take its toll. Unfortunately, I know this all too well.

Thirteen years ago, my husband, daughter and I were in a terrible car accident on the Florida Turnpike. On our way to Orlando, our vehicle was hit by a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel. Although we all had our seat belts on, our car swerved and hit a bridge embankment. My husband's head went out the side window, hitting the windshield and the concrete. When EMS workers got to us, it looked as if a battle had taken place: burning cars, debris. And because my husband had a major slice to his head, blood was everywhere. I was not hurt, and my daughter had a minor cut from flying glass. They loaded us into ambulances and took us to two different hospitals, my husband headed for the local trauma unit. He stayed two days in the hospital. They stitched up his forehead and sent him home, mentioning that he may want to see his doctor once he got back to Washington, D.C. And although the whole thing was terribly traumatic, we left Florida three days later, with my husband behind the wheel of a rental car.

Because he felt fine and there seemed to be no urgency to his injuries, my husband went back to work and made an appointment with his doctor to have a CT scan two months later. When he got off the table, the radiologist asked him to sit down and immediately called a neurologist. As the doctor viewed the images, his face turned pale and he asked my husband how long had it been since he was in the accident. My hubby shrugged and said, "A couple of months." The physician then told him not to move - he was going to schedule surgery immediately. It seemed my husband had developed a subdural hematoma that covered his entire brain. According to MayoClinic.com it's usually formed from head trauma that causes the brain to be shaken severely. Many children who suffer from shaken baby syndrome have these type of injuries. And unlike epidural hematomas, which bleed in the brain fairly quickly, my husband's injury developed slowly, causing a massive bruise to form. One false move could have given him a stroke, or caused permanent brain damage.

Although my husband made it through brain surgery without incident, there is a lesson here. Never take a head injury for granted. When doctors looked at his scans in the ER in Florida, they obviously did not see the bruising that later formed over his brain. Because the brain is loaded with large and small blood vessels, head injuries can cause all sorts of serious problems. Studies have shown that athletes who suffer even minor concussions can develop neurological problems later in life. The brain is nothing to be messed with.

Ironically, March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. And although brain injuries are not as common as, say, broken bones, they do happen and many have serious consequences. They need to be treated immediately. In this story, my husband got treated, before suffering brain damage. He was fortunate. God bless her, but Ms. Richardson was not.

Have you ever faced head trauma? Know someone who has? What happened? We'd like to hear about it.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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soundoff (348 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    I tripped at the top of my stairs and flew three feet & head first on a brick floor. I don't remember much. I lost a tooth but the impact was mostly to my forehead. It seems like it was weeks later & I had a terrible headache. My stomach hurt from taking Advil. I went to ER, They treated the headache & stomach, The doctor & his nurse came in to sign me out. The Doctor asked my husband why I was acting strange and my husband told him it just started and about the fall. (We were uninsured), The Doc glanced at the nurse and she looked down. Then the Doc said "ok, you're good to go. After that, it got worse by the day! Now I'm a year out and totally dependent on my husband. If you hit your head and Doctors don't see outside damage but you feel you aren't right, demand help. My doctor and ER doc both didn't bother cause we were cash pay. My reg doctor did the same. I asked for a reference of a neurologist and he said he didn't know anyone. It's too late now. I am getting more concentration but have a small attention span and all my memories are gone from raising my Son to what I did five minutes ago. I have a loving husband, if not for that I would not want to go on like this. If you have to sell your car to get help do it! I doesn't always get better. Just harder!

    March 15, 2017 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mary Stewart-Glover

    I fell 3' off my make shift front porch early morn of 3/18. Not sure if I lost consciousness or how long I laid there crying. There was a lot of blood loss and swelling at the point of impact and above my ear. My head was numb for almost 48 hrs.
    I live alone and had been celebrating St. Patties day at the bar. It took me about 15 min to make into the the house. I staggered when I stood up luckily my keys were stilll in the door. I took off those stupid high heels and climb the stupid wobbly cinderblocks. Blood had gotten in my eyes and was flowing at a steady rate. I wrapped a towel around my head and stayed up long enough to make sure the bleeding was slowing down,about 30 min.
    Thinking I came though this fine till a little voice in my head said, " Go online and see how long and what could possibly show up long after a head trauma."
    Your article is a real wake up call for stubborn people like myself. I'm a widow with no insurance but I'm calling Salud to see about getting myself checked out.
    I did think to take picture to help with time frame. It's now been 60 hrs. since it happened
    This is my 3rd head trauma in 7 yrs. First time required 3 days hospitalization and staples. It was over a year before I could look up with out getting dizzy. 2nd time I went to ER.
    I've been weepy since the fall. I don't know if it has to do with the fall or the fact that my mother passed on 3/18/13,my fathers birthday.
    My father passed on 2/19/11, a year and 2 day after my husband passed

    March 20, 2017 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Brian DeLuca

    My 35 yr old goddaughter had called me to pick her up at the airport. I got there and she and her four kids waved to me and I started to drive over towards where she was standing when she had a slip on the ice and fell on sidewalk. She quickly got up and brushed herself off. I had already run over to her and asked if she was OK and she said she was fine. We went home, unpacked and got settled in. The next morning she woke up and was fine. Around 4 pm she said she didn't feel good and thought she might be coming down with a cold, she was CNA and worked with sick people so she thought nothing of it. She said she was going to lie down for a while. I said I would make some soup. About 6pm I brought in the soup and she decided she'd eat it in kitchen. She finished and said she still felt sick so she went back to room. I went in about 6:45 to get some laundry in room and she was snoring away. At 7:45 her youngest son who is 8 came to me and said that he went in room to wake his mother up but she was sleeping still. I went in and she was not breathing. I called 9/11 and I started CPR, it seemed like forever but the ambulance came in 14 minutes. She was gone. The autopsy showed her brain had swollen and she died from that fall on the ice. I am still remembering it over and over in my head, if I had only known to do something. I would never had thought that something like this would ever happen. Her four kids are now without a mother. Such a tragedy. Life is such a fragile thing.

    March 22, 2017 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Roxanne

    I was walking down my basement steps and tripped. I went flying into the cement wall. All I remember is opening my eyes and realizing the side of my face was smashed against the wall and my left arm was above it. My 15 year old son was downstairs and saw me immediately after my fall occurred. He said my body was bent in half. I slowly took my glasses off that had been pushed up to my forehead and was surprised they did not break. I felt my forehead to check for blood. There was no bleeding. I slowly began to move my limbs to see if anything was broken. I was able to stand up and my son got me a chair. My other son grabbed olive oil and applied it to the areas that hurt that were not scraped open (prevents black and blue Maris from appearing). My boys helped me clean off my arm that was scraped open as well as my knees. 2 days later, I hurt all over. My whole body just aches. Reading this article has made me realize I need to take a trip to the ER. Thank you so much for posting your experience.

    March 31, 2017 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Linda

    My dad is 83 yrs old, and about a month ago he slipped on some ice and fell and hit the back of his head. Hard enough that he knocked his glasses off his face. He didn't tell me for a couple of days, he didn't go to the doctors. He said he was fine. During this month he had gotten the flu and had been on medication. Now, for about a week he tells me that he's had a headache and feeling pressure like he has a cinder block on his head. His wife called the doctors and they set up a CT, but it's 10 days away. I am concerned that he has a subdural hematoma. But, he's stubborn and won't go to the ER. I'm wondering if I should be concerned.

    April 3, 2017 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Name*Bonnie Quinn

    I was in a car accident Mar 13. I was rearended. I had a hair clip in my hair. My hair clip broken when my head hit the back of my seat from getting hit from a car going 35 to 40 mph. My head is so tender I feel like someones been pulling my hair and my scalp feels hot in that spot only. What could this be?

    April 6, 2017 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mitchell Vergamini

    279. Thanks for your write-up. I would love to opinion that the first thing you will need to do is to see if you really need credit improvement. To do that you will need to get your hands on a replica of your credit profile. That should never be difficult, because the government necessitates that you are allowed to be issued one cost-free copy of your own credit report annually. You just have to consult the right persons. You can either browse the website for the Federal Trade Commission or even contact one of the main credit agencies specifically.

    http://bbs.jiaonan.net/home.php?mod=space&uid=2615257&do=profile

    April 19, 2017 at 07:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Debra Davis Name*

    I was riding a bike and I turned and slid hit my head hard on the concrete went to hospital a day later my face started to swell up and I slept a lot my nose was swelled up but it hit on the side of my brain by the forehead now it's hard to breathe

    June 3, 2017 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Name*Regina Moore

    I tripped,fell and hit the front of my head, right at the hairline, and busted it open. I had to have 3 staples. That was almost 2 months ago. Ever since then, I have been experiencing very very sharp pains that radiate from the scar and the back of my left eye and on top of my head but deep. I read this blog and I am wondering if I should check with my doctor? I am prone to migraines but this doesn't feel anything like that.

    June 10, 2017 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Shakila

    I wanted to thank you for this wonderful work priest. After years of trying to conceive and a failed IVF and a failed FET, I ordered your Pregnancy Miracle from your website http://iyareyarespellstemple. webs.com/ . According to my infertility doctor it was "very unlikely" that I could be pregnant with my own eggs. But here I am, pregnant for the first time in life. I got pregnant naturally just 3 weeks after my failed FET and after using the pregnancy herbs you sent to me. I am now 3 month pregnant. I am spreading this miracle story to whomever I meet and who suffers from infertility. Kind regards and thank you priest for everything

    June 14, 2017 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Sheryl

    I was in a critical accident. Car totaled. Son driving and crashed into s tree. His head hit eindshield and air bags deployed on driver and passenger side. I was in passenger side 3
    Airbags deployed and hit me in the head.

    I was unconscious for about 5-10 min
    Awoke to find my son out of the car. I opened
    Passenger door and saw Police after him
    And Police hitting him with his fist in the head
    3 times till my son collapsed. I was screaming to
    Stop hitting him , he had s brain tumor ...
    I was already in shock and so was he from
    Accident. After seeing Police beating him I was traumatized
    Was traumatized. Isn't this Police brutality
    To best someone up for ?? Suppose to help and assist.

    June 23, 2017 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. GINO LOPEZ

    two ear, nose and throat doctors ( specialists ) told me and showed me x-rays ( i wish i had kept a copy ). that i had four man made holes two next to each other at the top left off my right eye and two in my right wing next to each other. we argued for a long time cause i NEVER HAD SURGERY IN MY LIFE ! What do i do ? Aways have very terrible migranes and regular bed headaches. never told anyone cause noone would believe me. help. GINO LOPEZ

    June 30, 2017 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Marcia

    I fell last thanksgiving ! I hit the back of my head really hard ! I broke my hip the dr ran a scan and said my head was ok! But now when I lie down or sit in a chair it hurts the back of my head !!

    July 9, 2017 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Nancy Collins

    Dec 2015 I went to bed and 4 days later I realized I had somehow gotten severely injured but had no pain. I noticed I had 7 or 8 large wounds on my body, an arm that didn't work and couldn't walk without bumbing into things. I was seeing things but I still wasn't making a connection that I was close to death. My brother came over and saw me and called an ambulance for me. The ambulance took me to the waiting room and left me. I sat out there for 3 hrs. Finally after an MRI the Dr said I had a large brain mass. I argued that because I didn't believe that was possible. I was ok 4 days before. After telling me they wanted my family to come see me before surgery they were basically writting me off. I still could not understand why they thought I was dying. The next morning I went off to surgery and woke up with a headache from hell. I had a brain bleed that they said they had to stop the surgery from for awhile to stop the bleeding which makes no sense when that was the reason for the surgery. I went home in 3 days with weird symptoms. I didn't reconize my right arm and felt like I was left handed when before I was right handed. My left arm was broken so that was hard to understand. If I raised my right arm it frightened me because I didn't reconize it. It seemed like it was not mine. If I looked up when I was walking I would fall. My eyesight was better immediately after the surgery. I was very confused for 4 or 5 months. I am afraid of everything now. I don't know what happened to me that I ended up so badly injured. The one big hole in my hip took 6 monthsto heal. The big hole in my shoulder took 4 months to heal. I am so afraid what happened to me could happen agame. I would like to know but I can only assume I fell and hurt my head and just kept falling all over the house. Unless someone beat me but there was no way to know sice I was alone. I have read and heard most people with head injuries don't remember the accident. Well it's been 1 and 1/2 years and the biggest problem is memory and aniexty with depression. I am on an emotional rollercoaster. I have completely ruined my relationships with everyone except a exboyfriend that is the most understanding person on rhe planet and a younger brother. Thank God for brothers. The rest of my family is long gone and probably for good. I have apoligized but some people maybe don't deserve to be forgiven and some people are not very forgiving. My only daughter don't ever call but don't hang up if I call. I am truly trying to be better and not loose it. It is the hardest I have worked at anything in my life. No matter how hard I try I still can't control my emotional self. Medication helps.

    July 15, 2017 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. discount cartier bangle white

    wow. so cute. i love how you wrapped them up.
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    July 17, 2017 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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