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Archive for Sunday, March 22, 2009

Doctor: Lack of medical helicopter cost actress time before she died

March 22, 2009

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— 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.

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.

A mahogany casket bearing Richardson’s body was taken Saturday to the country home where she married Liam Neeson in 1994, according to a published report.

There has been no official word on a funeral, but reports have suggested one is planned today in Millbrook.

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