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AMERICAN MORNING

House Call: Vidana Shot in Head on Mission in Iraq

Aired January 23, 2004 - 09:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, his fellow Marines gave him up for dead after an Iraqi sniper shot him in the head. But Jesus Vidana is very much alive today, and again, on the road to recovery. It will be a long road.
And Dr. Sanjay Gupta knows this story better than anyone.

Good morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

He was unconscious for days. It was a terrible story for him. Turned remarkable. In the end, it just ended up being remarkable. Jesus Vidana, I had met him first out in the desert, then I had a chance to drop in again back home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESUS VIDANA, U.S. MARINE: My head jerked forward, like that, and I popped back up. Then he said he saw my eyes closed and he said I just dropped. He said he called the medic over and the corpsman came and he took my pulse. And he said he's dead.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I get a chill inside, I can't imagine what it was like to have two Marines come to your door.

ROSINA VIDANA, JESUS VIDANA'S MOTHER: When the Marine says he was in critical condition, but he's still alive, I said that's it, God is going to bring him back. He's not going to die.

MR. VIDANA, JESUS VIDANA's FATHER: They told us that a journalist from CNN who was performing surgery. And I say a journalist, you know, but then yes, he's a doctor. OK. So OK.

J. VIDANA: I just woke up and I didn't realize where I was at. And a nurse, like a Navy nurse, looked at me and she said your parents are going to come to see you. And I was like great, why? A doctor came in and he told me what had happened. Told me that there was shrapnel in my head from a bullet, that I had been shot in the head.

GUPTA: I wanted to tell you about, you know, what I saw out there. I thought that you could potentially be saved, but we had no tools, really, to do that sort of thing. I took one of those drill bits and from a drill that you put up the tents with and sterilized that. And essentially used that to remove the chunk of bone around where you had been shot so that I could take all the blood clot out that was now pushing on your brain. I mean that when that blood clot came out, when we were able to get that out, that you -- your -- that your life had been saved.

MR. VIDANA: And I told well thank God, because I mean I thought, you know, I thought he was going to pass away.

J. VIDANA: I pray that through this experience more good than bad will come from it. But all the this, the gains and my life would not have been possible without you. Thank you very much, Dr. Gupta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: It was a real honor to meet Jesus. Obviously he's doing very well. Won the Purple Heart. A significant injury, but you can see his recoveries, obviously, coming along.

HEMMER: I love what his father said, who's operating on him, a journalist?

GUPTA: That's right.

HEMMER: That gave him a lot of assurance.

GUPTA: Yes, yes, exactly.

HEMMER: You know you and I have talked many times about how you were conflicted in the desert and this case it was Iraq. I think it might do our viewers well at this point for you to explain why it was that as a doctor and also as a reporter there on the scene to explain why you made the decision you did at the time.

GUPTA: Well I think Jesus Vidana and his story sort of speak for itself in terms of these sorts of decisions. But I mean you know I think we're all journalists. Journalists, I went out there as a journalist, but in this case I was a doctor first and a chance to save someone's life.

I think it was obviously an obvious choice for me. I was surprised that there was any sort of conflict about it in anybody's mind afterwards. Jesus Vidana was left for dead. He may have still -- he may have died out there, and he's doing pretty well, walking along, a little bit weak on the left side, but he's doing what he wanted to do.

HEMMER: As a neurosurgeon then, when you see his weakness on the left side, is that something that can be cured and can be helped?

GUPTA: Yes, you know it's exactly what I'd expect. He was -- he was injured on the right side of his brain and that can -- that controls the left side of the body. At that time, it was significant swelling. I expected a little bit of weakness on the left side. I think it's going to get better over the next year still.

HEMMER: His mom was happy to see you, wasn't she?

GUPTA: Yes, she was. She was. HEMMER: Thanks -- Sanjay.

GUPTA: All right. Take care.

HEMMER: Great to see you. Have a good weekend.

GUPTA: Thank you.

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