I fall. And when I fall, I usually hit my head. Hard. So, as I've followed the sad news about Natasha Richardson, I've fretted and freaked out, my stomach has been tied in knots, and my already too-high feeling of vulnerability has been stretched even higher. If Richardson's head could suffer a mortal blow by hitting a soft patch of snow, what's going to happen to mine the next time I whack it on the hard kitchen floor?
Being vertically challenged, I spend an inordinate amount of time grappling with gravity. So, it's not too surprising that this is freaking me out. I imagine that my healthy counterparts who are following this accident haven't thrown themselves into a tizzy. They probably see it for what it is: a sad twist of fate. But, the media's been slow to point that out. Probably because in the first three days, there wasn't a lot of specific medical information to reveal. From my perspective, it seems somewhat irresponsible that the accounts haven't been balanced with statistics about head injuries, or with experts reminding us scaredy-cats that scads of people tumble down bunny hills every day and get up to do it again, and again, without ever earning a fast-pass to "walk and die syndrome."
So, if I can't find an expert's frame of reference in the media reports, I'll find one on my own: Gary Steinberg, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. I e-mail him, "Is this just a totally freak accident? Is there anything you can tell me that will make me stop fretting?" He reassures me that epidural hematomas can be successfully treated, but, "know the symptoms, and seek prompt medical attention." He adds, "Not to worry. You'll live another 60 years!"
Just what I needed! A voice of reason from a seasoned neurosurgeon. Now, why couldn't the New York Times have a quote like that? Especially when they DID have a quote like that. They interviewed Dr. Steinberg the day before I emailed him, and for god-knows-what-reason, they cut it from the article.
It took them a week, but the New York Times finally got it right.