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The case for medevac choppers made by death of actress

The terrible death of actress Natasha Richardson highlights the value of medevac helicopters.  According to Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, the lack of a medical airlift may have contributed to Richardson's death.The actress was skiing last week in Montreal when she suffered what at first appeared to be a minor head wound.  After she became very sick, she had to be driven 2 1/2 hours to the nearest trauma center.  Richardson did not recover and died.

Dr. Razek, Montreal's leading head trauma specialist, says that a "helicopter is obviously the fastest way to get from point a to point b."  And he said that Montreal is not as well-equipped with medevacs as other parts of Canada or the United States.

Recently, there have been questions raised in the U.S. over the use of medevacs.  Some high-profile accidents have led investigators to wonder if the helicopters are flying too often, in  minor cases, in order to justify their costs.

Several years ago, my videographer partner and I spent a week with the medevac unit at Leigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania.  During that time, they medevac'd a heart attack patient and an unconscious car accident victim.

Medevacs save lives.  Accidents will happen, just as they do with road ambulances.   But faced with a 2 hour drive to a trauma center when your life is at stake, you'll opt for the chopper every time.


6 Responses to “The case for medevac choppers made by death of actress”

  1. There is a private medical helicopter service in Quebec, available for $3,000.00 an hour. I wonder why Mr. Neeson didn't hire one of those. There are also helicopters available for flying patients from inside Quebec for out of province medical treatment. Surely those could have been used as well.

    The two recent ski deaths in Colorado (similar to Natasha Richardson's) were not avoidable, even with available helicopter service.

    It seems there were other issues here that contributed to Natasha Richardson's death, including her refusal of medical treatment early after her fall.

    Condolences to her family.

  2. Tom de Torres Says:
    March 25th, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I agree with both viewpoints to a point. Air evac has its place although it may be possible that it is inappropriately used at times. In Natasha's case, it was obviously a tragic mistake but her mistake just the same to refuse the advice of the ski instructor and of the EMS professionals to be evaluated in hospital. A head CT in the local hospital might have detected early bleeding and facilitated moving her to the trauma center earlier. Even by a 2 1/2 hour ambulance ride, she could have been in the trauma center already when she developed symptoms, not in the hotel.

  3. Tom, I don't know why news reports keep getting the times wrong. Natasha Richardson got a CT scan after a 20 minute ambulance ride to the first hospital. She then had a 40 minute ride to the other. The time in between admission to the first hospital and transfer to the second was because she was being prepped for surgery. Some reports even say she had a head drill done at hospital one, but by then it was too late.

  4. Andrew, did you create a medevac documentary of some sort after spending the time with the crew? Is it online? I'd like to see it.

  5. Zach, it's a 4 minute video that was part of a larger program on flying done for Comcast.

    I do have it and will attempt to put it on youtube this weekend.


  6. Carlie,

    I heard that she (N.R.) refused treatment further at some point.

    Point 1) Doctors who defer to patients judgements with head injuries need their heads examined.

    Point 2) This says more about the sad state of medical care in Canada and where Obama, my mama, wants to take healthcare in the US.

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