Thursday, March 19, 2009

Family Gathers Around Natasha Richardson

The family and friends of the actress Natasha Richardson gathered at Lenox Hill Hospital on Wednesday to be at her side.

Ms. Richardson, 45, suffered a head injury on Monday while skiing in Quebec and was flown from Montreal Tuesday night to Lenox Hill, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Her mother, the actress Vanessa Redgrave, was seen entering the hospital that night, and her sister, Joely Richardson, was also reported to have shown up at the hospital that evening.

Her husband, the actor Liam Neeson, who had reportedly been filming a movie in Toronto when the accident occurred, was seen on Tuesday afternoon crouched inside an ambulance beside his wife at Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, as she lay heavily wrapped in blankets with tubes around her face.

Alan Nierob, a family spokesman, said on Wednesday afternoon that he had no information about Ms. Richardson’s medical condition. Asked if she was on life support or had been taken off life support, or if she was brain dead or in a coma — all of which has been reported on several media outlets over the last 24 hours — Mr. Nierob replied: "I don’t deal with rumors. I don’t care about rumors. All I care about it facts. And I don’t have any facts to give you."

A spokeswoman for the hospital as well as business representatives for Ms. Richardson referred questions to Mr. Nierob.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, there were conflicting reports about Ms. Richardson’s medical condition. La Presse, Montreal’s French language broadsheet, reported that a source at the hospital said that Ms. Richardson was in a "profound and irreversible coma." Other media outlets reported that she was on life support — and that, once in the United States, it would be withdrawn — while other news outlets said that she was brain dead.

The reports of Ms. Richardson’s grave condition seemed especially shocking considering the seemingly harmless nature of the accident.

Lyne Lortie, a spokeswoman for the Mont Tremblant ski resort in the Laurentian Hills north of Montreal, said Ms. Richardson had fallen during a beginner’s lesson. She was not wearing a helmet at the time, she said.

“It was a normal fall; she didn’t hit anyone or anything,” Ms. Lortie said. “She didn’t show any signs of injury; she was talking and she seemed all right.”

As a precaution, when she left the slopes, Ms. Richardson was accompanied by a member of the resort’s ski patrol and her instructor, who then remained with her at her hotel.

When she began complaininhg of a headache about an hour later, she was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Ste. Agathe, Quebec, about 20 minutes from the resort. Ms. Lortie said that Ms. Richardson was transferred to the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal later in the afternoon.

Ms. Richardson won a Tony in 1998 for her performance in “Cabaret.” Her film performances include roles in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Parent Trap.” Her father, Tony Richardson, was a director, who died in 1991. She and Mr. Neeson married in 1994.

In January, Ms. Richardson and her mother, Ms. Redgrave, gave a benefit concert reading of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” at The Roundabout Theater. Ms. Richardson played Desirée Armfeldt, and Ms. Redgrave played her stage mother. The two were reportedly planning a longer run of the revival in New York.

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