Don't Ignore Head Trauma and Headaches

by MigraineCast Patient Expert

Hello and welcome to MigraineCast.

The recent death of wife, mother, and actress Natasha Richardson has brought the issue of minor head trauma to the bright light of the news. Ms. Richardson was skiing on a beginners slope in Canada with her children when she fell. She laughed, got up, said she was fine, and refused medical care. About an hour later, she developed a headache and was taken to the closest hospital. That hospital soon transferred her to a hospital with a trauma center. Later, she was transferred to a New York hospital so her family could be with her in what would be her last hours.

What happened to Richardson happens all too often. Even though she didn't hit her head very hard and felt fine at first, the blow to her head caused a traumatic brain injury, an epidural hematoma. That occurs when blood pools between the skull and the thick lining of the brain. When injuries such as Richardson's are treated early, the results are usually good, and the patient recovers. However, if treatment is delayed, the outcome is not good because the damage has already begun.

Gail Rosseau, chief of surgery at the Neurologic and Orthopedic Hospital of Chicago, said, "It is the most feared, treatable problem in neurosurgery... These are the patients who 'talk and die.'"

The bottom line here is that no head trauma or unexplained headache should be ignored. They should be checked out, and quickly. There are signs and symptoms to look for with traumatic brain injury, also simply called TBI:

Some signs of TBI are:

  • head pain

  • any loss of

  • amnesia

  • confusion

  • lightheadedness / dizziness

  • blurred vision or tired eyes

  • ringing in the ears

  • bad taste in the mouth

  • fatigue or lethargy

  • a change in sleep patterns

  • behavioral or mood changes

  • trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking

A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have:

  • a headache that gets worse or does not go away

  • repeated vomiting or nausea

  • convulsions or seizures

  • an inability to awaken from sleep

  • dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes

  • slurred speech

  • weakness or numbness in the extremities

  • loss of coordination

  • increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.

In Ohio, the life of a seven-year-old girl has been saved by the coverage of Ms. Richardson's death. Morgan McCracken was hit in the head by a baseball. She showed no symptoms beyond a bump on her head that went down when ice was applied to it. She went to school, and things went on as usual. Two days later, she complained of a headache. Her parents called her pediatrician, who told them to take her to the emergency room. A CT scan revealed an epidural hematoma, the same injury as Richardson. She was taken by helicopter to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, where she went into the operating room within three minutes of her arrival. She is expected to fully recover.

None of us likes to make trips to the doctor or emergency room, especially for something that might seem minor to us. It seems a waste of time, and we feel silly. I'm sure Natasha Richardson's family would rather she has risked feeling silly rather than risking her life and losing.

Living with severe headaches and Migraine disease for over 40 years has brought me to the realization that learning about Migraine disease and headaches can allow us to work with our doctors as treatment partners to gain control over headaches and Migraines rather than them controlling us.

Please join us at MyMigraineConnection for information and support, for a transcript of this podcast or to enter YOUR poem in our poetry contest. From MyMigraineConnection and the HealthCentral Network, this is Teri Robert reminding you that you can indeed live well, even with Migraine disease and headaches.

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MigraineCast is a podcast developed, written, and produced by Teri Robert.