I felt total shock and disbelief when I heard the news that British actress Natasha Richardson was critically injured in a skiing accident yesterday near Montreal. My most recent memory of Natasha Richardson was seeing her as celebrity judge on the Bravo reality TV series Top Chef, where the 45 year old Richardson appeared the very picture of grace, elegance and good taste.
I’ve always been involved in acting, and I’m a fan of Natasha Richardson, so it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that she was critically injured, and perhaps would not recover. It’s hard to hear such news about anyone, but even harder to digest such tragic news about someone you really respect and admire.
According to news reports streaming in today, Natasha Richardson was taking a beginner skiing lesson yesterday at the Mont Tremblant resort near Montreal, Canada. She fell during the lesson and was not wearing a helmet, but according to some reports I’ve heard, Natasha Richardson was smiling and didn’t complain of any injuries at all right after her fall. Reportedly, there was no blood or any obvious signs of injuries to Natasha Richardson when the incident happened.
Natasha Richardson went back to her room, and various news reports state that she felt ill and had a headache over an hour after her fall, and the resort then called 911 and she was taken to the hospital. According to everything I heard today, Natasha Richardson was conscious when she left the resort.
Earlier in the day today, unsubstantiated reports started coming out that Natasha Richardson was brain dead. This was prompted by a report in Time Out New York Magazine, which ran a story with the headline “RIP Natasha Richardson.” A few hours later, Time Out New York ran a retraction, saying that Natasha Richardson was in fact brain dead but since she hadn’t passed away, they shouldn’t have included the “RIP” headline!
This prompted criticism for the way Time Out New York handled the whole situation today. Some other media, like TMZ.com, refuted Time Out New York, reporting that Natasha Richardson was indeed alive, in critical condition, and treated for brain swelling but not brain dead. Time Out was criticized for jumping the gun, possibly having their facts wrong and wanting to break the story of her impending death at the expense of the feelings of Natasha Richardson’s family and loved ones.
As the day wore on, The New York Post and some TV stations like FOX News were also reporting that Natasha Richardson is brain dead and won’t survive her injuries. In my opinion, this is journalism at its lowest. Shouldn’t the needs of the family and loved ones be balanced against the desire to be the first ones to break a juicy story? I think it’s pretty low that these news organizations are burying Natasha Richardson, and declaring her dead before her family and her doctors even have the chance to issue an official statement.
How hurtful and painful for her family, her friends and fans. Natasha Richardson is a gracious classy lady and a consummate actress. If she is indeed gone (and with so many conflicting news reports today it’s hard to get at the truth of the situation) then Natasha Richardson deserves a classier ending than this media circus that surrounds her injuries and medical situation today.
I know that this will certainly throw a strong spotlight on the importance of wearing protective head gear while engaging in sports like skiing and horseback riding. It’s unclear whether or not the lack of protective head gear made a difference in her injuries; however, it makes sense to protect the head when participating in sports like skiing.
Also, as Natasha Richardson was gravely injured but initially appeared alright after her fall, this underscores the need to understand more about traumatic brain injury.
My heart truly goes out to her husband Liam Neeson and their two sons, and her relatives in the great Redgrave acting dynasty, all of her friends, fans and loved ones. My heart still holds out hope that these earlier reports about Natasha Richardson were in error, and she is resting in the hospital and has a chance for recovery.
If the worst is indeed true, I hope that the media will give the family of Natasha Richardson some space and time to grieve without the glare of the media spotlight. Natasha Richardson is one of the brightest talents in acting, and her loss will be a terrible one for the film and theater community, and the rest of the world.