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Sanjay Gupta MD

Laura Bush: Changing the World One Heart at a Time; Doctors in War; An Autistic Woman Communicates Through Video

Aired December 29, 2007 - 08:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Thanks, guys. This is HOUSE CALL. We're bringing you some of the most intriguing medical stories of 2007 and the people behind them.
First up, Laura Bush, how she wants to change the world one heart at a time. Then doctors in war, the emotional stories they brought home to us from the battlefield. And finally, Amanda Bags. She's an autistic woman who communicates through video.

Behind every medical story we brought you this year on HOUSE CALL are some amazing people. I had the opportunity to meet and talk to many of them. We start with First Lady Laura Bush and how she's taking a stand on several issues.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: You know, we have laws for vaccine. I mean, that's not something new. We -- when I was younger, everyone had to get a smallpox vaccine before you could start school. And even today, in most school districts, there are certain vaccines that every child has to get before they start there, start to school.

So there's nothing new about requiring a vaccine that will protect the health of people in our country. And I think it's important for young women to have this, or girls, actually, to go ahead and have this vaccine. It will protect them from cervical cancer later in their lives. It's just like getting the flu shot. I mean, you get those vaccines so you won't have a problem later in your life with a disease. And in this case, it's cervical cancer.

GUPTA: If someone doesn't want one, should they be mandated to get it?

BUSH: Well, I mean, I think that's up to the states to figure out how to do that, but we certainly mandate vaccines. I mean, we do it in the United States. And because of that, we don't have many of the diseases that still are prevalent in other parts of the world. There's certainly nothing wrong with mandating vaccines, I think. It's a very important part of public health.

GUPTA: Heart disease kills maybe 10 times more women in this country than breast cancer. Yet a lot of patients and certainly a lot of physicians as well don't know that.

BUSH: Didn't know it. And I didn't know it. When I learned that heart disease was the number one killer among women, I knew that if I didn't know that -- I was surprised by that. I thought that cancer was. And I knew that if I didn't know it, that many other women probably did not know it.

Some of the symptoms that women have especially aren't really the crushing chest pain that we imagine comes with a heart attack. People just, especially women, will say, oh, I'm going to go lie down. And I'm sure I'll feel better in a little bit, instead of doing what you should do, which is get straight to an emergency room.

GUPTA: And as we talk a lot about health and fitness, one of the things people say is, well, I don't have time for it. How do you make time for it?

BUSH: Well, I try to schedule it. I have a trainer, which is a huge luxury. And my sister-in-law works out with me. She comes in from Alexandria, where she lives. And of course, because I know she's coming, I'll get up and work out. And I'm not near as disciplined as the president is about working out, but I do feel a lot better if I work out.

And I love to go for walks. And I want to encourage people to go for walks. It's a really easy and inexpensive way to get exercise. And plus, I think it just makes you feel better, not only physically, but I think it makes you feel better mentally, to get outside and go for walks.


GUPTA: Mrs. Bush continues to be concerned with her health and the health of others. She's currently working on programs to help rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Now from the First Lady to the front man of U2, many people are using their celebrity status to fight for a cause. A rock star activist Bono continues to battle the spread of disease in Africa.


BONO, U2: We've got to put names and faces to these statistics. I mean, the daily report, here it is. You know, it's hard science. It's, you know, cold facts. But there's a hot argument that's going on about the lives that are being lost here. These are real people, like sisters, brothers, mothers.

This is a mother who can't afford a 20-cent drug, Novaripine (ph), that will stop spreading HIV/AIDS to her daughter. This is the daughter who will be involved in transactional sex because she has no alternatives. She can't get into school. This is the man begging for his life for two pills a day or to save him from AIDS or a family, you know, who are looking for bed gnats.

I mean, it's an extraordinary thing that in the 21st century, malaria, death by mosquito bite, is one of the biggest killers on the planet. And it's mostly children. 3,000 African children will die today of a mosquito bite. And I think when we get that message out, I think people start to realize this is madness. And this isn't, you know, passing around the plate at church on Sunday or digging into your pocket on a campus on Monday. This is worth us getting out on the streets, joining the one campaign to make poverty history, buying red products.

This is a social movement that is not just for dignity of African people, but for our own dignity to show that if this time and this place in civilization, we believe in the idea of equality. And it's an annoying idea, a difficult idea, it asks a lot of us. But if we really believe that a child's life is as valuable in Africa as it is in our own home, we have to act. And that's just it.


GUPTA: And Bono says more than 6,500 Africans are dying every day from preventable and treatable diseases. Bono's campaign data mission is dedicated to eradicating extreme poverty and AIDS in Africa.

Now there's more to come on this special edition of HOUSE CALL. A Navy psychologist lets us in on some tragic rules of engagement.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are two rules of war. Rule number one is that young men die. And rule number two is that doctors can't change rule number one.


GUPTA: Then, do you want to stop aging now? Deepak Chopra tells us what we need to know.

And later, people with autism are often described as unresponsive, even unaware. But wait till you meet Amanda.


GUPTA: Military doctors have a difficult role, trying to fix the physical and mental wounds of war. In November, we recognized some of those doctors in our Veterans Day special. And I had a chance to sit down with Army trauma surgeon Ken Wilson, who had just returned from serving in Iraq.


KEN WILSON, ARMY TRAUMA SURGEON: I think the amount of violence, the amount of attacks that actually take place on the bases has increased. You know, being a surgeon, we're not out in the field. We're actually inside the wire. But there's a lot of duck and cover from incoming mortar attacks and direct fire.

GUPTA: When patients come into the hospital or to the medical unit, how do you triage there -- is it -- you know, in terms of deciding who gets treated when? Is it the same as a hospital here? WILSON: No, it's a little different. One thing is the degree of injuries. In an urban center here in Atlanta, you may have one injury. But in the field, you may have a combination of injuries, a limb that is severely injured, a burn injury, as well as maybe a closed head injury.

You have limited amount of resources, limited amount of blood, limited amount of surgeons. So a lot of times, the decision that you're making is who's salvageable. So the patients who are the most salvageable at times will be the ones who get the operation, not necessarily the one who's the most injured.

GUPTA: I imagine it must be difficult as a trauma surgeon to know that if that patient was in a state of the art hospital here in the States, you could save them. But in Iraq, with less resources, sometimes you can't.

WILSON: Yes, that is true. I was in Balad, as you mentioned, the last piece, where they have a lot of the specialty care for one month. But I spent the remainder of my tour at a very peripheral base down in Al-Kut, Iraq where we had to make those decisions because we just didn't have the resources to save everyone or have the transport to get everyone to Baghdad in a timely fashion. So there were times when we had to pronounce people who we felt if we had been in a major center like Balad or Baghdad that we could have saved.

GUPTA: took care of an Iraqi girl out there. What happened to her? What did you do?

WILSON: I was in Balad when she arrived. And the vast majority of my time in Balad was spent in the intensive care unit. She was shot as she was caught in between an armed conflict between two families. She was hit in the abdomen. Major Matt Senna (ph) in Balad took her to the operating room, where she had a portion of her liver removed, a portion of her small bowel. She lost her spleen. She lost her left kidney.

So you have a little girl coming to the intensive care unit in extremis. There's no dialysis in the country. So if she loses that one kidney, she's going to die. So we spent the vast majority of the night trying to jump-start that kidney, so to speak, keep her alive on the ventilator. She did survive the night. She did have a couple of more surgeries. She did survive that.

And I think the most rewarding part is seeing her mother, who doesn't speak, you know, a word of English, who's looking at these bells and whistles and clearly very tearful about her daughter, moved from being tearful to extremely joyous, you know, at the end of this. You know, something that you just never forget.


GUPTA: And Dr. Wilson has returned to civilian life as a surgeon at Grady Hospital here in Atlanta.

Now while he repaired physical battle wounds, other doctors treat the emotional trauma of war. Navy psychologist Heidi Kraft served with the Alpha Surgical Unit in Iraq in 2004. She wrote a book about her experiences. And she told us a story that we're never going to forget.


DR. HEIDI KRAFT, NAVY PSYCHOLOGIST: There are two rules of war. Rule number one is that young men die. And rule number two is that doctors can't change rule number one. My book is based on that idea.

I am a clinical psychologist and spent nine years active duty in the U.S. Navy as a psychologist. During 2004, I deployed as part of Alpha surgical company with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Iraq.

We are responsible for the acute care and trauma treatment of all of the Marines operating in our area. They came with the express purpose of staying functional so they could stay with their unit, so they could do their jobs.

I did not have one person in almost eight months tell me they wanted to go home. I think that everyone that wears the uniform knows that there's a possibility that we will have to deploy. That being said, as a mother of young children, it was certainly a sad couple of days as I prepared. I only had 10 days' notice.

So, I think -- I sort of in those days of getting ready, I think I sort of grieved in advance for what I would miss. In March of 2004, we had what I believe still is probably our worst mass casualty. At one point, we had 14 patients coming in the door. And one of those people was a young Marine corporal, who had a very significant head injury.

He was moved to the area that we call the expectant room. So I was there when Corporal Dunham was in that room. I sat down and took his hand. I didn't leave again. I couldn't leave at that point. Still haven't quite been able to really explain why.

He was breathing and his heart was still beating. And we were giving him medicine and talking to him and telling him how proud we were of him. He had thrown himself on a grenade to save the two Marines that were with him. He was subsequently nominated for and awarded the congressional medal of honor for that action. And we didn't know that. But we still told him how proud we were. And I'm so glad we said that because I believe he heard us. I'm positive he heard us.

Then he squeezed my hand. And as a psychologist, I know this could be a reflex. So I didn't say anything for a minute and sat there and waited. And then he did it again. So I got right down in his ear, and I said, all right, Marine, here's the deal. If you can hear my voice, I need you to squeeze my hand again. And he squeezed so hard that he pulled me down so that my face came down on his shoulder. So we called for all the physicians of the company. They came running. And he was by then -- his eyes were reacting, his feet were reacting. He was responding to commands. For the next half hour, they let me stay with him, the ICU team. And I kept holding his hand and he kept squeezing. And everybody was so just manic with excitement and really just what a miracle.

I think we were all at that point still really hoping he was going to make it. I kept having these wonderful fantasies of meeting him someday and talking to him. And then one day I came out of church, actually. It was a Sunday. And one of my chiefs was waiting for me to tell me that Bethesda had called and that he had died.

My hope for this book is that the stories within the covers are stories of sacrifice and courage and friendship of a group of people that happen to be in the desert at the same time I was. I hope that those stories will give people just a small idea of the type of people that serve in our Marine Corps and our Navy.


GUPTA: Dr. Kraft is now a civilian. But she still treats Marines and sailors at the U.S. Navy's combat stress control program in San Diego.

Our best of 2007 HOUSE CALL show continues. Deepak Chopra stops by, explaining how your mind can help heal your body.

And later, inside Amanda's mind. Some of our most popular stories of the year. Stay tuned.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Every week on Empowered Patient, we talk about ways that you can take charge of your health care. Well, for this holiday week, meet some parents who are taking charge like nobody else. That's because their children have rare and deadly diseases. And they are not just sitting by.

They've formed their own charities and have raised millions of dollars to come up with a cure for their children. To find out how they've done it and to read their inspiring story, go to

For Empowered Patient, I'm Elizabeth Cohen.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSE CALL. We've talked with one of the pioneers of mind/body medicine this year, Dr. Deepak Chopra. Now, he's the founder of the Chopra Center for Well Being. He's also a best-selling author of numerous books on spirituality, health, and healing.


GUPTA: I want to quote you on something that you said I thought was interesting. "You can free yourself from aging by reinterpreting your body and by grasping the link between belief and biology," something from your book.

First of all, what did you mean by that? I know, by the way, that you turned 60 last year. I think, if I'm correct on that.


GUPTA: Chronologically.

CHOPRA: Not biologically.

GUPTA: You're not a big fan of the way that we measure aging. I know that as well.


GUPTA: But what did you mean by this quote?

CHOPRA: Well, you know, in Eastern traditions, which are now -- people are becoming familiar with them, the body is seen as a field of energy and information. And it also metabolizes the experience of time.

So let's say your internal clock is fast. You know, you say I'm running out of time all the time. And that's what you say to yourself all the time. So you're looking at the same watch that everybody's seeing, but it's moving much faster. Well, you'll have faster heart rate, higher number of (INAUDIBLE) platelets with adrenaline and high blood pressure. And if a person like that constantly says I'm running out of time, then one day they're going to have a cardiovascular accident and they will run out of time.

GUPTA: They'll have a heart attack.

CHOPRA: Yes, a heart attack. And they'll run out of time.

On the other hand, if you say I have all the time in the world, and then when you are intoxicated with love, then time stops for you, that actually influences your biological clock. So you have to reinterpret your life experiences. How do I relate to the experience of time? How do I relate to this body? Do I see it as a field of energy? Can I activate that energy field through yoga practices, breathing, (INAUDIBLE)? There are many mind/body techniques.

GUPTA: One of the themes that you stress through a lot of your books, including Buddha, is love and forgiveness. And you just mentioned getting out of toxic relationships, for example. Does that make a difference, a, in terms of aging, and b in terms of your overall health? I mean...

CHOPRA: Yes. When you have the experience of not only love but also compassion, which is a paradoxical thing, because compassion is the suffering with others.

See, when you have the experience of shared suffering, which leads of course to compassion, which leads to love, then your body's homeostatic mechanisms, which is self-regulating mechanisms, fine-tune themselves. And they ignore how it works. It's called limbic resonance.

Your limbic brain regulates self-referred, self-feedback, and homeostasis in your body. But your limbic brain is very much connected to your emotional life as well. And you know, mammals have emotional lives. They live in close-knit, nurturing groups called families. And where there's an emotional bond, if the baby is emotionally bonded and feels safe, the baby is likely to be a healthy adult.

But even in adults if you take care of emotional toxicity, if you make a person feel loved -- if you -- for example, there's a study that I can quote where a nurse calls a patient once a week. And of course, infarction mortality drops very significantly.

GUPTA: Is that right?

CHOPRA: If she calls the patient once a week and says we're thinking of you, we love you.

GUPTA: Just to show that compassion.

CHOPRA: And you know, of course, the Speaker (ph) study where women who supported each other in a loving environment with breast cancer, the survivors doubled. And they had to stop the study because they didn't want to have a control group.


GUPTA: Most people don't know that Deepak Chopra is an endocrinologist and was the former chief of staff at Boston Regional Medical Center.

Well, still ahead on HOUSE CALL, there's really no cure for autism. But once you meet Amanda Bags, you're going to see there is hope. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. While there's really no cure for autism, once you meet Amanda Bags, you'll see that there is much hope. She lives in a small town in Vermont, but thanks to the Internet, she's now known around the world. Here's Amanda's extraordinary journey.


GUPTA (voice-over): This is Amanda Bags, rocking back and forth. She does not make eye contact. Her movements, erratic. Her behavior, eccentric. She cannot speak. And for most of us, this is precisely what we expect when we see a person with autism. But Amanda and her friends will absolutely change your expectations.

Would you define yourself as an autistic person, Amanda?

AMANDA BAGS: Yes, the word for people who's brains look like mine last I checked. GUPTA: As you'll see, Amanda has a lot to say. Her brilliance is laced with a wry sense of humor. We first came across Amanda on YouTube. Her appearance there is so startling, I wanted to meet her. I had so many questions.

BAG: The way I naturally think and respond to things looks and feels so different from standard concepts or even visualization that some people do not consider it thought at all.

It is only when I type something in your language that you refer to me as having communication.

GUPTA: Amanda calls herself bilingual. For other autistic people, she has movement and gestures to communicate. But for the rest of us, she made this video to teach us how it works. She calls her neurotypical, meaning we do not have autism.


GUPTA: Well, unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks for watching. And keep watching HOUSE CALL in the new year. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.