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Interview with Matthew McConaughey; Cheating Death; Women of the Senate Talk Health Care Reform

Aired October 8, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: Tonight, Matthew McConaughey starring in a new role.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR AND FOUNDER, J.K. LIVIN FOUNDATION: This after school curriculum that you guys are in, that you guys have started...


KING: Fighting to save our kids from illness and disease.

Then, cheating death -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here to save your life, empowering you to bring a loved one back from the brink. You've got to watch this. Gloria Stefan and Brooke Burns are here with their own amazing survival stories.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Matthew McConaughey kicks things off for us tonight. And he's not here to promote a movie or to tell us the secrets of acting and what method he uses. He's here to talk about something a lot more important than that.

He is the founder, actor, activist, as we said, of the J.K. Livin Foundation.

Which is what?

MCCONAUGHEY: The Just Keep Livin' Foundation. We have after school programs in high schools -- voluntary. Kids could come two hours twice a week. They learn how to exercise the right way, nutrition, eating healthy on a budget, a lot of gratitude bases for the thank you circle. And it's a safe place for these kids that are in Title 1 schools to come after school, twice a week. And the goal is to turn some -- some good boys and girls into great men and women.

KING: How did you come to start this?

MCCONAUGHEY: Well, I always wanted to do something with -- with kids. I knew that. But as you know, you know, when you want to help and you want to find something to do, there's a thousand things out there that you can do. And they're all in quality and good things, too.

But I -- I zeroed it down to kids. And then I looked around and really did some -- some research on what's the crossroads age where you can get -- you can be proactive in modifying behavior so each of these -- so the person can take care of themselves before the problem is settled.

And so I looked at 14 to 18. And I found that that's when, if you're on the right track, you're forming your habits to stay on the right track. If you're off the track, you still have time to get back in line. Whereas, if you get 20, 21, 22, maybe it's too late a lot of times.

So, the kids -- I looked at -- you know, there's a lot of things where exercise and P.E. has been taken from schools. I really think that's a valuable class and a valuable thing to have for character building and teamwork.

Nutrition, you know, eat this instead of going to this fast food joint. Drink -- drink some water instead of grabbing the soda pop, little things.

And then, gratitude has been a really nice piece of the program.

KING: Why did you choose initials, J.K. Livin?

MCCONAUGHEY: J is for just, the K is for keep, and there ain't no G on livin, because life's a verb. That's a -- that's sort of a mantra that came to me in 1992 after my father had passed away. And I was dealing with how do I maintain a relationship with him spiritually, even though physically he's no longer here.

And it sort of came to me, well, you keep him alive. He's -- he just keeps living.


KING: Yes.

MCCONAUGHEY: ...that's where it started for me. And then it turned into something that I found myself applying to everyday life. It became a lifestyle. And then everything I did, whether it was choosing a film, whether it was a production company, whether it was producing music, whether it was getting into the foundation -- it was a -- a bit of an umbrella -- and a fun umbrella to work under, the Just Keep Livin.

KING: Earlier this week, Matthew gave us an inside look at the J.K. Livin program in action at Venice High School here in Los Angeles.

Check this out.


MCCONAUGHEY: Hey, Larry. We are showing up at Venice High School to kick off the fourth semester of the J.K. Livin Foundation After School Program.

Who can do doubles?

I started this -- this foundation, this after school curriculum that you guys are in, that you guys have started, with my lady, Camilla Alves. Her and I are the founders, so to speak, of this curriculum, this after school class that you all are in right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the leg that's straight needs to be straight. No bending of the leg. So to enhance using the lower back.

MCCONAUGHEY: Now, we're not talking about making everyone into cover models and Victoria's Secret models and the best athletes in the world. That's not what we're -- that's not what we're about. It's about physically making you feel better. It's about giving you more energy, because when you exercise, you're going to have more energy.

We also have you guys working as a team -- teamwork, that builds good character, man. It's also fun.

One, two, three, just keep livin.


Hey, Larry, thanks for coming out here today and spending time with us at Venice High School. The J.K. Livin Foundation After School curriculum. We had a great time. Thanks for sharing it with us.

In the meantimes and all times, one, two, three, just keep livin.


KING: We saw your lady, Camilla Alves, in that package. You have a 14-month-old son with her and another baby on the way.

Is she involved in this, too, J.K. Livin?

MCCONAUGHEY: She's very involved in this. Yes, she is. We're -- we're partners at the head of the foundation, with our time and financially. And that's -- it's our major investment.

KING: Isn't 14 to 18 a little after the fact? Haven't they been inculcated with bad food and not exercising and doing wrong things before 14?

MCCONAUGHEY: Well, they have. And kids are growing up sooner today. They're growing up quicker than -- than they did when you were growing up and I was growing up through high school.

Yes, they've been around, I think, a lot of things that could form bad habits. But they're just at that cusp where they're gaining their full-on independence, you know. Eighteen, you're out. You're legally an adult, in many ways. Yes, so they're still listening to the parents. They're still listening to the teachers. But they're getting -- they're getting -- when they get out of school, it's -- it's no more school or it's go to college. You -- you're drawing your line. I think it's catching them right there where they still want to change and go, you know what, I'm about to become a man or I'm about to become a woman. So how do I want to do that?

And how can I modify my behavior, where I'm going to be happy, healthier, cooler -- whatever it is -- in life after this?

So I think it's catching them right at a time where they're very, very keen on, OK, what's going to happen?

They're anticipating what's going to happen in the future after high school.

KING: Are most of the kids minority kids?

MCCONAUGHEY: In different schools, we're definitely -- we're -- high Latino at Venice. Hamilton is -- is a mix. And then at LBJ in Austin is a mix of Latino and black and some white.

And it's very diverse though. I mean, it's -- it -- there's a lot of girls in there. There's a -- the races are di -- are diverse. The interests are diverse. There's kids from art class sitting there working on something with the kid that's on the football team.

KING: The overall concept, though, if one word would apply, is health, right?


KING: In mind, spirit, body...

MCCONAUGHEY: Spirit and body.

KING: ... Physical, everything?


KING: Quickly, are most of these kids, kids with one parent?

MCCONAUGHEY: A lot of them are. A lot of the kids have one parent.

KING: And who's -- it's funded, I understand, by SmartWater, which is the company that makes SmartWater.

MCCONAUGHEY: Well, SmartWater is...

KING: But that's -- they -- they fund it without getting, you know...

MCCONAUGHEY: Well, SmartWater has given us water for the -- for the foundation for each one of the -- the after school programs. So they have come up and believe in the program. And we -- we give the kids SmartWater across the board.

KING: And a salute to them.


KING: We'll be right back with more.

And Dr. Sanjay's coming.

Don't go away.



MCCONAUGHEY: Hey, man. Good to see you. Hi. Hi. Yes, man, good to see you again. I've got a lot of (INAUDIBLE) going down. It's the older folks. The jumping jacks are tough.


KING: The subject is health. The guest, Matthew McConaughey, the -- McConaughey, the actor and activist, founder of the J.K. Livin Foundation.

We want to correct something.

SmartWater doesn't fund this, right?


KING: What do they do?

MCCONAUGHEY: Well, they -- they support us and they offer free water. They give water to each of the programs in all the schools and (INAUDIBLE).

KING: But they've not been funding it?

MCCONAUGHEY: They're not really funding it, no.

KING: OK. Good. Let's correct that.


KING: And Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us, CNN's chief medical correspondent, a practicing neurosurgeon, a New York Times best- selling author. And I must say, his new book, which I have right here with us, is a terrific read, "Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that are Saving Lives Against All Odds."

I know you two -- how did that friendship start, you and him, because this is disparate?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: How did a physically fit guy who's really handsome and famous become friends with Matthew?

Is that what...

KING: Yes.


KING: Good line.

GUPTA: No, everybody -- you know, it's...



MCCONAUGHEY: Lance, right?

GUPTA: Lance introduced us and...

KING: Lance?


GUPTA: Lance Armstrong, yes. And I think, yes, we have a lot of similar interests.


GUPTA: It's -- it's interesting when you sit down and talk to somebody -- and we do come from different backgrounds and do different things -- but we had some great conversations and realized we had a lot -- we like a lot of the same things and want to do a lot of the same things.

KING: What do you make of what he's doing with 14 to 18-year- olds?

GUPTA: You know, it's interesting what Matthew has decided to do, because, obviously, he's -- he's an inspirational guy just -- just because of who he is.

Fourteen to 18 is an interesting time frame in someone's lives. You haven't -- you have an opportunity to reverse a lot of the health diseases that we talk so much about -- diabetes, heart disease. Some of those things may have started, but they really haven't taken root yet. So you have a chance to really make an intervention there.

But what's also interesting, Larry, is, you know, we talk a lot about health care and health care reform and all that. So much of what we talk about is trying to be more preventative -- trying to reduce the cost of health care by -- by preventing these diseases in the first place.

When you have someone like Matthew, who can use the private sector and the not for profit sector and really make a difference like that. So (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: Wouldn't we assume, Matthew, just on the basis of growing up and pharmaceuticals, that we're healthier today?

MCCONAUGHEY: I wouldn't assume that.


MCCONAUGHEY: I would not assume that. I think, you know -- Sanjay and I were talking about this before. I know when I grew up, it was, if it was daylight outside, get outside. Well, now, with the technological age of computers and everything, everyone's inside virtually going everywhere they want to go, virtually having relationships, virtually traveling across the neighborhood, virtually going to that island.

And that tool is great, but, I mean, on a simple level, we're missing Vitamin D from the sunshine. We're also not -- our social skills are -- are getting reduced, I think, because we're not actually dealing with people and problems.

So I would argue that we are healthier. We have the ability to be the healthiest -- the healthiest generation ever.

But I think when we started -- when -- when man started, there was little food and a lot of activity. Now, we have a lot of food and less activity.

KING: Your book, Sanjay, deals with death -- cheating death.

Fourteen to

18 year olds don't think about death, do they?

GUPTA: Yes...

KING: But they start things then that could lead to their death, don't they?

GUPTA: No question about it. And -- and to your question about are we healthy, I mean, we have the capacity to be healthy. There's been a lot of benefits from the technology. You and I have talked about that. But we -- we are living with sort of this overabundance. You know, a lot of the foods that are available and cheap and accessible simply aren't good for us.

You know, President Clinton, who's been on your show, Larry, talks about the fact that the children growing up today -- Levi, who's 15 months old -- I have three girls around that same age -- have a good chance of having a shorter lifespan than their parents -- than us -- because of what's happening with childhood obesity and -- and lots of other things.

So, you know, kids are developing heart disease -- you hear about people having heart attacks in their 30s now.

I mean when did we hear about that before?

It -- it's remarkable. KING: You read his book?


GUPTA: I've got to -- I'll get you a copy.



KING: No, it's a terrific -- according to your book, research shows that from 10 to 20 percent of Americans say they've had a near death experience. I want to get to that in a little while later, because I had a heart -- by the way, I had a heart attack and I had heart surgery.

What would happen to me now if I had cardiac arrest right here, right now?

GUPTA: Well, a couple of things would happen that would be probably different than what you remember, is that, first of all, the way that we would try and resuscitate you, Matthew and I both, is different than it was even a year ago. And Matthew and I have talked about the new sort of resuscitation methods which are -- which are exponentially more effective than the old resuscitation methods.

KING: And a layman knows how to do it?


MCCONAUGHEY: And quite simple. They're much more simple. You don't have to think about so many things in order to do things.

GUPTA: Take away a lot of the guesswork.

KING: And we're going to show you how. It's the most important thing you can ever learn -- how to save someone's life.

Dr. Gupta and Matthew will show you how in 60 seconds.


KING: OK, we're back with Matthew McConaughey and Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- Sanjay, your book includes the information that the survival to good outcome rate for cardiac arrest outside a hospital is only 2 percent in most cities.

What can we do about it?

GUPTA: Well, the first thing that makes a huge difference is -- is simply if someone gets in and helps. And if you ask people, Larry, if they want to help, most people would say, yes, you know, of course, they want to help somebody who needs their help. But when it comes down to it, a lot of people don't. And if you ask why, it really comes down to feeling uncomfortable or really not knowing how to do mouth to mouth resuscitation. And so these researchers decided to try and figure out would it make a difference if they just did chest compressions only. What would work?

And -- and Matthew -- Matthew was going to -- we're going to show, basically, how this would work. What, as he's doing this, as he's getting ready, it's worth pointing out that if you have a sudden cardiac arrest, you have about eight to 10 minutes of oxygenated blood in your body. And so the real key, more than anything else, is to be moving that oxygenated blood around. Do it quickly and don't stop for anything.

So this is something, you know, you can teach in just a couple of minutes. Matthew and I just talked about this.


GUPTA: You interlock your fingers like that, right, and then you sort of really lean way over the...

MCCONAUGHEY: Right at the chest cavity. Get over the top of it.

GUPTA: -- the body, arms straight...

MCCONAUGHEY: You want to go...

GUPTA: and you push hard enough that the chest really recoils back upwards. So you really feel that -- that give and take, back and forth, about 100 times a minute. If you're doing it right, you know, within a -- within a couple of minutes, Matthew should start breaking a sweat. Someone has already called 911, because that's the most important thing, as well, to get the paramedics on the way. But just 100 times a minute, really, just about as fast as you can, that makes the biggest difference. And to -- and to not worry at all about mouth to mouth resuscitation.

KING: Why is this better than -- than mouth to mouth?

GUPTA: Well, you know, first of all, it is better. And I think that was surprising to a lot of people, this idea that if -- if you simply do the chest compressions, you actually have better survival than adding mouth to mouth. The reason is that you have good blood. You have oxygenated blood in your body. You don't want to stop moving that blood around for anything. That's really the key.

Even to stop, Larry, to go from the chest compressions to start doing mouth to mouth, you've essentially stopped moving that blood around the body and even 10 seconds of that can make a huge difference.

So you really just start pushing on the chest. You don't stop for anything.


MCCONAUGHEY: So do this until the paramedic comes up. GUPTA: Do that until the paramedic comes up, exactly.

MCCONAUGHEY: Because we have 10 to 12 minutes of oxygen in our blood anyway.

GUPTA: That's right.


GUPTA: And in a city like L.A. -- so, Matt, if you were walking through the streets of L.A. today, the average paramedic time around here is about eight-and-a-half minutes. So you've got enough time. Paramedics come over, they may put a breathing tube in, they make take the patient away, use a defibrillator, all sorts of things. But you have just increased the likelihood of survival by about 500 percent, as compared to not doing anything at all.

KING: Wow!

GUPTA: Think if that was a drug, Larry, or a new technique or a new procedure, everybody would be doing it.

KING: Right.

GUPTA: And we just taught Matthew, literally, in 10 minutes.

MCCONAUGHEY: It's very simple. And be strong with it.

Don't be shy, right?

GUPTA: Right. You really want to feel it. And, you know, people come in, Larry, sometimes with broken ribs as a result of really effective chest compressions.

KING: I'd rather have a...

GUPTA: But that's OK.

KING: I'd rather have a broken rib and live.


KING: By the way, Matt, that's a great tip for everybody watching.

Matthew McConaughey has written a Web exclusive for us about his newest role keeping kids' minds and bodies fit. It's at Click on the blog.

We spent some time with Matthew this week. We've got a Web extra for you about that, too. It's at, as well -- /larryking.

Back after this.


We're trying to interlock these two subjects, Matthew McConaughey and his J.K. Livin Foundation, which works with 14 to 18-year-olds, and Dr. Gupta's "Cheating Death" book, which usually involves people considerably older than that.

But have you, Matthew, learned anything from him through this kind of thing?

MCCONAUGHEY: Well, one thing I like about Sanjay is that with all his knowledge and all the science, you know, you always come up with a very practical, simple means for the layman -- for the guy who's not a doctor or that doesn't know all these things -- that's easy to understand.

That CPR method is very simple. You don't have to think, wait, am I supposed to blow, how hard am I supposed to blow, do I need to hold the nose?

It's very simple -- dominant hand low, in between the chest and do it until a paramedic gets there.

KING: Would you teach that to kids in your program?

MCCONAUGHEY: That's a good idea.

GUPTA: Why not?

MCCONAUGHEY: That's a real good idea. You know, you also have said things on nutrition which I really appreciated, where -- what's a simple diet? He says, get seven colors in your meal a day. That's a simple, fun way to go about it.

KING: Yes.

GUPTA: The colors of the rainbow.


GUPTA: You get everything you need -- all the good stuff out of food -- just by doing that.


KING: Your book involves a lot of cutting edge science. Something very low tech is ice. Talk about therapeutic hypothermia.

GUPTA: I am fascinated by this. I am absolutely fascinated by this. Right now, for example, in -- in New York, just to give you a little bit of background, if someone has a cardiac arrest and the paramedics show up, in addition to their medicine bag and defibrillator, they're carrying around ice cold saline and immediately putting it in the I.V. and starting to cool somebody in the field, in their home, before they get to the hospital. The idea is a pretty simple one. Your heart's not working well, so you're not getting enough oxygen to all the various places in the body. If you use ice, you can slowly reduce the demands of the body. The body is sort of going to sleep. It doesn't need all that much oxygen anymore. So you're sort of putting the body into a steady state, almost like hibernating.

KING: Where did it come from, this idea?

GUPTA: You know, they -- people have been toying around with the idea of hypothermia for some time. And it was always this doubled- edged sword -- it can kill you, on one hand, but it can also be a huge lifesaver, on the other hand.

There's about 30 years of research, Larry, that goes into this.

KING: Wow!

GUPTA: What's amazing to me -- and I know you're so interested in cardiac care -- is that not every hospital in the country is doing this. You know, I come from a small town in Michigan. Some of the hospitals over there don't do this.

You can dramatically increase someone's likelihood of survival simply by using ice. We're not talking about a billion dollar drug here, we're talking about ice packs and ice cold saline. And you chill the body down and it makes a huge difference.

KING: I've got another way to hook to these two. Your 14 to 18- year olds have parents, fathers, grandparents.

They could run into an attack in the house, right?

MCCONAUGHEY: A lot of them live with their extended families, too.

GUPTA: Right.

KINGS: Yes. So they could be right on top of this cutting edge, as well, and use it.

MCCONAUGHEY: That's a good idea. And they're all -- and, again, the kids you're dealing with, again, you're talking about simple techniques -- ice. You're talking about simple CPR revival. Those are not -- that's not high tech solutions.

GUPTA: No, you know, and you've got to make this simple, like you said, Matthew.


GUPTA: because anybody can do this. They're not going to feel awkward about it.

And they'll feel empowered to actually save somebody's life.


KING: Am I right, did you jump into cold water?

GUPTA: I -- I did.

KING: How cold?

They have it at spas, where you can jump in and it's real cold.

GUPTA: Yes, well, it was -- it was pretty close to freezing water. I was in an area called Tromso, which is in Northern Norway. It's north of the Arctic Circle. And it was -- I really want...

KING: There you are.

GUPTA: This is where a lot of the hypothermia research takes place.

KING: What's it like?

GUPTA: You know, it stings. That's the first thing I remember. The water just really stings. It kind of burns like needles. And I was wearing a suit in order sort of to be a little bit protected. I don't think you could survive without one. And then your body temperature starts to drop quickly. Your heart rate starts to slow. Your breathing slows. You might feel a little light-headed. And I was only in for about 10 minutes before a helicopter basically came in and rescued me.

KING: Wow!

GUPTA: But the -- the amazing thing is within that few minutes, my body temperature dropped about four or five degrees.

KING: Matthew, I want to thank you for joining us.

I want to...


KING: How can people help?

Can people help J.K. Livin?

MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, you can help. Absolutely. I mean the best place to go for information on...

KING: Yes?

MCCONAUGHEY: ...more information on what we're doing and how you can give is go to That's where you can find out everything...


KING: Www.jklivin -- L-I-V-I-N -- MCCONAUGHEY: .org.

KING: Keep it up, Matthew.


Here's a J.K. Livin bucket for you.

KING: Oh, hey, baby.

MCCONAUGHEY: Larry, all right.

Good luck with the Dodgers tonight.

KING: Gloria Estefan cheated death.

She'll tell us how, right after the break.


KING: Singer, Grammy winner and platinum album superstar Gloria Estefan is with us. While touring in the spring of 1990, a speeding semi-truck crashed into her tour bus. Gloria was critically injured, fracturing her spine, may have broken her vertebrae. But she cheated death.

Well, that's what we're talking about right now with Sanjay Gupta.

How did you do that, Gloria?

Why didn't you die?

GLORIA ESTEFAN, SINGER/ACCIDENT SURVIVOR: Well, I was very lucky, first of all, Larry, that I - that I didn't die. But it's interesting to hear you talk about the hypothermia research because the reason we - we crashed is there was a jack-knifed truck seven miles ahead because of a freak snowstorm in the Poconos March 20th. So when we crashed, it was literally snowing inside the bus. And I was very, very cold.

And now, as Dr. Gupta was saying, they're using this in spinal injuries because they have found very much that that helps to keep you, you know, in a lot better shape.

And I've got to say that I felt people's prayers around me. I was at the peak of my career. There was millions of people praying for me worldwide. And when I was in the hospital, I felt the energy around me almost as if I was plugged into the wall. And I would visualize these prayers coming into my body. I would imagine my nerves reconnecting in my spine. Of course, this was after they had put me back together with the titanium rod.

But I have to tell you that I -- I used that power almost like being connected to some other source, and I visualized my spine healing and my nerves reconnecting. And I continued to do this everyday of my therapy for -- I still do it now when I -- when I'm feeling kind of law.

KING: Does the medical doctor accept that?

GUPTA: You know, it's funny. When I -- I was working on a book for a couple of years now, and I think, you know, as a neurosurgeon, I -- I didn't really know what to make of that a couple of years ago.

KING: White lights or --

GUPTA: Yes. All of that, feeling the energy and -- and all that. But I heard it in so many different people and was able to validate a lot of what they talked about. Gloria says while she was in the hospital, probably a lots of medications, she was having these experiences that -- that was definitely just this amazing intersection between spirituality and medicine. And it happened right at the point that Gloria is talking about.

KING: Let's take a look back at a presser, Gloria, you did when you were released from the hospital. Let's watch this.


ESTEFAN: This has been one, if not the most difficult thing that I had to go through in my life, but I'm thankful for the miracle of being -- being alive and able to recuperate completely.


KING: And it was a miracle. You believe in miracles, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Miracle is not a word that I use very often, Larry. But, you know, this -- this idea that people have these astounding recovery when no one expected it, what I -- what I try and do as a doctor is really try and figure out what happened with this particular person. Instead of calling them a miracle or an outlier, what can you, Larry, what can I learn from them, so that the same -- we can have the benefit.

KING: But they do cheat death?

GUPTA: You know, I -- I think that's a fair term. You know, I've thought a lot about that title, this idea that everyone had sort of given up. Doctors with lots of experience, crisp, light coats encouraging loved ones to pull the plug or to give up. And then something happens that -- that, you know, it's hard to explain.

KING: Gloria, did you give up?

ESTEFAN: I never gave up. In fact, my family kind of thought I was, you know, not really accepting the medical reality. And I do understand, you know, science and -- I'm a scientist as well. I studied psychology. I -- I really -- I understand the whole process. But, I have to say that I think we have so much power of self-healing that we have to be as, you know, as -- just like the doctors are trying to help you, you have to put a lot of yourself into it. When I was doing rehab, I would purposely -- if I was doing a rep or something with my exercise, I would purposely put my mind into that muscle. I would really, really concentrate and almost like a pinpoint meditation, almost, through my rehab, because it just gave me that much more strength. I -- I think I was able to -- to progress a lot more by paying a lot of attention and putting all my focus into the healing of my body, and not just the medication or whatever I was taking.

I -- I really -- I took a very, very strong, you know, force in everything that I did for the healing process.

KING: You think she cheated death, Sanjay?

GUPTA: I think so. And in some -- in many ways, I mean, she -- she was very sick and she -- she's talked about this publicly, we often talk about the -- the influence the body has on the mind, but what can the mind do to the body?

I mean, there's some people who simply have the will to live. And, you know, again, as a doctor, it's sometimes tough to explain.

KING: And as I said, it's had a terrific book. Gloria, stay with us a moment. Brooke Burns lived to tell about a horrific accident in a swimming pool. You'll hear her miraculous recovery next.


KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Gloria Estefan remain with us. Joining us here in Los Angeles, actress Brooke Burns, best known for her role saving lives on the TV series "Baywatch." But she was in a real life nightmare when she broke a bone in her neck after diving into her swimming pool.

What happen? What did you hit?

BROOKE BURNS, ACTRESS: Well, like you said, I've been a swimmer and a diver for quite a while. It was something that I think I got too comfortable with, and I dove into my black-bottomed pool and hit the slope from the shallow end to the deep end. And I had a chin to chest paralyzing break. I have a fusion now for my C3 to my C5 and two rods -- a rod and ten screws and two titanium plates.

KING: How did you get to the top of the pool.

BURNS: I actually had kind of one of those crazy experiences where when I hit, it was black out excruciating pain, and then white out absence of pain, and the subconscience thought that I want to go back. Then it was pain again, and swallowing water. I happened to have a friend at my house who was an ex-fireman, and he jumped in and saved my life.

KING: Comment, Sanjay?

GUPTA: You know, it's just amazing. I've heard stories like this over and over again. And, you know, first of all, she said she was having a calming influence in -- in spite of all that has just happened to her. And I've come to realize that there is a sort of protective reflex the body goes into. She should be really scared, really frightened, really panicked. Instead, she starts to feel calm --

BURNS: Absence, yes. It was like my body was just floating in total peace.

GUPTA: And people talk about this out-of-body experiences they have as well, again, sort of a protective reflex.

KING: Gloria, did you come close to panic?

ESTEFAN: I'll tell you this, I kept praying to lose consciousness. I wanted to faint. The pain was so, so unbearable. Somebody came in from one of the cars behind us that had just moved out of the way when this truck hit us, and there was a nurse. And she came in and literally held my head in place and told me, "you cannot move." Because all I could do was grab my legs to try to alleviate the pain. When I saw I couldn't get up, I would lift my legs to try to alleviate that.

It was taking a little bit of pressure off of the spinal cord because two of my vertebras had been pushed in, and exploded and they were really pushing the spinal cord to the bitter end.

And I'm also lucky. I found out recently that I have a lot of space with a lot of fluid in there, which also didn't sever the cord. But I was very calm. At no point did I really feel like panicking, except when the paramedics came in and were stepping on my feet, because I was covered with a blanket because of the cold.

KING: You had the same --

BURNS: Once the paramedics were there, my body went into shock and I remember just convulsing and that kind of thing. But it wasn't until I felt like there was somebody else here looking after me.

KING: Gloria, I want to thank you for joining us. Always good seeing you. President Obama, by the way, appointed your husband Emilio to a commission to study a possible American Latin Museum, which I think is a great idea. And you'll be entertaining at the White House on Tuesday. Good luck, Gloria.

ESTEFAN: We will be there. Thank you so much Larry. Thank you Dr. Gupta.

KING: Alright Brook, some more time with you. You consider yourself lucky?

BURNS: Absolutely. I do a lot of work now with spinal cord injury charities, and I'm in the 10 percentile that walk away from this kind of injury. Most of my friends that have had spinal cord injuries are quadriplegics. And I consider them the true champions of -- KING: Do you think about it a lot?

BURNS: I do.

KING: Do you swim?

BURNS: All the time. I got back in the pool immediately. I think I learned that from my family. I think that when you go through things like this, you have to be an overcomer, you know. And you were talking about heroes and stuff earlier and I think that that's truly -- heroes are people who go through these kinds of trials and tribulations, and they come out of it and they use it for betterment.

And if I can bring awareness to other -- especially kids -- you were talking, it's all about kids. Think first, feet first, no diving in the shallow water, and that kind of thing. And if I can use a tragedy in my life for some kind of good, that's worth it.

KING: Dr., there's no way -- accidents are always a surprise, that's why they're accidents. You can't prepare for an accident, can you?


GUPTA: Yes --

KING: Can you think about an accident?

GUPTA: Well, you try and prevent

KING: Do you think?

GUPTA: I think when it comes to diving in shallow pools for example, I got three young children and we have a pool. This is probably one of the things that we think about more than anything else. Anytime I'm at a public pool, I'm looking around, scanning for people who might dive into the shallow end.

KING: So prevention's part of everything?


KING: OK. Hey Brook, good luck.

BURNS: Thank you

KING: And we want to salute you by the way. I know how much work you're doing. You teamed up with the Think First National Injury Prevention Foundation and the North American Spine Society.


KING: I'd like to have you back one night, talk about a lot of other things.

BURNS: Thank you. KING: Back Street Boy Brian Littrell joins us in 60 seconds.


KING: Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell is with us. He contracted swine flu. He's going to tell us about it next.

But first, tonight's hero, wellness expert Deepak Chopra introduces you to an airline pilot, the father of more than 40 kids, in one of the poorest areas of Indonesia.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Heroes.

DEEPAK CHOPRA, WELLNESS EXPERT: Hello. I'm Deepak Chopra. For the past two years, I've had the honor of serving on the blue ribbon panel that selects the top 10 CNN heroes. As a contributor to the Start Fund Global, which sponsors projects that transform communities around the world, I see just how much we all need heroes.

Now I'm thrilled to have CNN introduce one of this year's top 10 heroes.

BUDI SOEHARDI, CNN HERO: There was riots, buildings being burned, people just trying to save their lives. The children are supposed to have proper upbringing. And what they were having there was far from being normal.

By name is Budi Soehardi. I'm a pilot for Singapore Airlines. I founded an orphanage to help the children in West Timor.

Right from beginning, we give them vaccinations, clothing, food, but we cannot give them anything more valuable than a proper education.

We are so happy that we are able to provide and to teach them, just be who you are, help others, and do it from your heart.


KING: OK, go to right now to vote for the top 10 CNN hero that inspires you the most.

Brian Littrell is here right after the break.



KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta remains with us.

Swine flu, or H1N1, is making its way around the world. We all may be threatened. Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell can tell us firsthand how he thinks he got it and how it affected us.

Now, what happened to you, Brian?

BRIAN LITTRELL, BACKSTREET BOY: Wow, Larry. To be honest with you, I don't know. I woke up last week with a chest congestion. I had pressure on the top of my chest. It was really shallow breathing, light coughing, very dry feeling in my throat. My throat didn't hurt. I really didn't have a fever or anything.

Two days later, I flew from Japan -- from Tokyo to New York, because the Backstreet Boys were launching a record. And through that whole flight, I was breaking out in a fever. I was cold. I was hot. And I didn't really know what was going on. I just knew I felt really bad.

I landed in New York, and my wife insisted that I see a doctor. And Dr. Primace (ph) came to the hotel. And, you know, he swabbed me and diagnosed me with Swine Flu. So the -- the body aches were just tremendous. I couldn't believe what I was going through. It was everything I could do to get up and out of bed.

KING: How long did it last?


LITTRELL: You know what? I was on medicines immediately Sunday evening after I saw the doctor, and it took me a good two days in bed to really start to feel better. And I think that was really due to the medicine.

The doctor told me in New York that I would feel better after the Tamiflu and things that they had be on. So I'm fortunate. I think we caught it a little early. But at the same time, the -- the trauma was just tremendous.

KING: Dr. Gupta, you had it. Where did you have it?

GUPTA: I -- I got it while I was in Afghanistan. I was in a --

KING: Nice place.

GUPTA: Yes, it was not the most forgiving place. I would have rather been in bed with my wife taking great pity on me. But it was a dusty desert tent. Very much the way Brian was describing it. I blogged about it. But it was interesting to hear him describe it, because it was the same thing.

It was -- it was the flu, Larry, but it was just like flu on speed, you know? It was -- the cough was the thing I remember the most. When I coughed, like, the whole body sort of wracked, and I got these --


KING: Did you take Tamiflu?

GUPTA: I did not take Tamiflu, in part because -- Brian caught it early. Tamiflu really doesn't work that well -- KING: Unless you get it early?

GUPTA: Yes, first 24 to 48 hours, so it really probably wouldn't have had an effect on me.

KING: During the time Brian was sick and contagious, the Backstreet Boys canceled some gigs. He posted a video message to his fans on YouTube. Watch.


LITTRELL: I want to apologize, again, and say that I'm sorry that I couldn't make it. You guys need to know what's going on. We were going to have a great time and mingle with the fans. I hope that the next time that you see me that I will feel better. But for right now, for the next three to four days, I've got to be out of the loop.


KING: Boy, did you look miserable.

LITTRELL: I didn't feel too good at the time, Larry. We -- but, you know, I mean, with technology, it was important to let our fans know what was going on. But unfortunately, we live a public life. And at the same time, I don't have anybody to really cover for me or take a sick day, so that was the tough part.

KING: A quick Tweet question, Doctor. Should a four-month-old baby get the flu vaccination?

GUPTA: Four months is too young. Really, it's six months and older. And that's -- that's part of the reason that, actually, incidentally recommending for pregnant women, if you take it while you're pregnant, your unborn baby actually gets some protection.

KING: How are you feeling now, Brian?

LITTRELL: You know, I'm feeling 10 times better. I'm still not up to par, but I'm at about probably 75 percent, but, you know --

KING: Wow.

LITTRELL: -- at the end of the day, the show must go on. And I'm glad just to be back on my feet.

KING: Thank you, Brian. Thanks for being with us.

LITTRELL: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Could he get it again?

GUPTA: You can't get that exact same strain again. He's essentially vaccinated. It's a tough way to get vaccinated, but he's got protection now.

KING: We've got quite an ending coming to this show. Don't go away. You will not believe what you're going to see.

Sanjay, by the way, has a special on Cheating Death. It airs October 17th at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

What's next? Women of the United States Senate. Wait until you hear what they've got to say, next.


KING: We have an unusual way to end the show tonight. Coming to us from Washington, D.C., from the United States Capitol Visitor Center, women of the United States Senate. We won't have time in this segment to talk to all of them, but we will talk to Senators Murray, Mikulski, Boxer and Stabenow. All earlier today gave back-to-back speeches on why reforming health insurance is important to women.

All right. First, Senator Murray, why specifically women?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: We know that every day in this country there are women who are impacted by the fact that health insurance today denies them coverage. If they've had a C-section, if they've been pregnant, if they've been a victim of domestic violence, insurance companies say "sorry, we're not going to cover you."

We want to make sure that in this health care insurance debate that's in front of us, women get equal access to health care coverage. We're the ones who most often take care of our kids and our families, our parents. And we want to make sure this insurance reform passes so that women aren't second-class citizens anymore.

KING: I'm amazed.

Senator Mikulski, why weren't women and these specific women problems -- women's problems not involved in insurance? Why not?

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D) MARYLAND: Well, first of all, it's just part of the whole institutional issues, where just like we didn't get equal pay for equal work, we haven't got equal insurance benefits for equal premiums. One of the things that we women know is -- and are finding out is that we pay more for our premiums and get less.

For example, in most states, a woman who's 25 years old pays almost 48 percent more for her health insurance than a male of the equal status. We want to change that and make sure we get equal benefits.

The other is that the punitive practice of the insurance companies either denying care because of a preexisting condition, which they call pregnancy, domestic violence, even acne in one -- in some situations, preclude us from getting insurance. We want to show the women of America that health insurance reform is a necessity and it is a woman's issue.

We're really proud of the people you just interviewed. They made room for medicine and miracles. But every one of them had access to quality health insurance. We want that for all Americans. And when we get it, we want to pay equal premium for equal benefits for women.

KING: Senator Boxer, many insurance companies -- I'm reading this; it's hard to believe -- don't cover maternity care?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D) CALIFORNIA: Yes. Only 14 states, Larry, is it required that if you want to sell insurance in that state, you must offer pregnancy coverage.

Women are discriminated against. Do you know that the statistics show that 52 percent of women either delay going to the doctor or they avoid going to the doctor because of the cost or because they're not covered or they're fearful?

I have women write to me. It is so heart rendering. They tell me they just pray that they won't get sick. That's it. That's their health care plan, praying that they won't get sick or that they turn 65, so they can get into Medicare.

And we will all tell you that there are more women on Medicare than men. And if we don't have health reform, the senior population, men and women, will not get the care they need, because if we don't fix Medicare, it's going to go broke soon.

So all of that talk about death panels and frightening seniors, it's the opposite. The status quo is frightening. We need to have health reform.

KING: I'm going to ask Dr. Gupta in a minute if he's surprised by all this.

But Senator Stabenow, how would reform legislation that you support -- how would it address specifically the issues?

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D) MICHIGAN: Well, Larry, first of all, we make sure we stop all the bad insurance practices that my friends have been talking about, so that women can get insurance. Pregnancy's not called a preexisting condition, and that women don't get dropped when they need the care that they've been paying for.

We also make sure that in the basic health insurance plan offered to families that maternity coverage is included. We say to Medicare. You know the majority of people on Medicare are women. And we add new preventative care so you can get mammograms without co-pays, get cancer screenings. We add additional help to pay for prescription drugs.

So bottom line is we're going to make health care more affordable. We're going to stop the bad insurance practices and strengthen Medicare. And for us, we know -- we're confronted every day with the fact that 14 million people get up in the morning, got up today with insurance, and will go to bed tonight without it. That is absolutely unacceptable.

KING: I salute you all.

Also on the screen, by the way, but not talking with us, have been Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina. I salute you all.

One quick comment, Sanjay. Are you aware of this?

GUPTA: Well, this whole thing about pregnancy being considered a preexisting condition is kind of outrageous. I mean that's -- I mean women do tend to be the primary health care drivers of families. So if you can't get proper insurance and proper prevention, the whole family suffers.

KING: Thank you all for participating. I salute all of you.

And thank you, Sanjay.

Sanjay's book is "Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that are Saving Lives Against All Odds".

"Anderson Cooper 360" starts right now.