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Sanjay Gupta MD

How Bad is Air Quality in Beijing for Athletes and Spectators?; Interview with Matthew McConaughey; Struggling with Infertility

Aired August 09, 2008 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL, coming to you from Los Angeles. We spent a lot of time out here to bring you a show that helps you live longer and stronger.
First up, all eyes on the Olympics this weekend. And a lot of eyes on that air quality as well. But just how bad is the air for the athletes and for the spectators?

And box office star Matthew McConaughey and his first television interview since becoming a dad. We have some amazing stories about the delivery. There was Brazilian music apparently and this Eastern medicine meets Western medicine sort of thing. Also, we're going to ask him how you raise a kid when you're so much in the public eye.

Finally, talking about babies, some of you may be struggling to have one of your own. We're going to have what all parents-to-be need to know about navigating the fertility landscape.

Now, if you've ever been in the emergency room, it may have seemed like you were waiting a long time, especially recently. The Centers for Disease Control says the average waiting time for seeing a doctor in the ER is 56 minutes. That's up from 38 minutes in 1997. Health officials estimate there are about 119 million visits to the United States emergency rooms in 2006. Some probable reason? Fewer ERs, fewer hospital beds, and longer waits for patients to get doctors appointments.

There's another headline that caught my eye as well about doping during the Olympics and the ability to test for it. According to a new article in the journal "Nature" these tests are by no means perfect. Some of the tests have a false positive rate as high as 34 percent. I find this entire topic very fascinating. You can check out my blog about the topic at

Now, there they are. The Olympic Games have begun. I just love watching that opening ceremony. For the next two weeks, athletes from around the world are going to push themselves to the physical limit. It's an amazing thing to watch.

Meanwhile, reports persist that Beijing's air may not be healthy enough for athletes or spectators. Just last year, I was in China investigating their pollution problems. And now, we have a clear idea of the health impact of all of that hazy air.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA (voice-over): Beijing, 2007, this time last year, I was in China, reporting on the environment. Coal fired power plants, black polluted rivers. The air here in Beijing is very hazy. Just being out here on the streets, you really get a sense of just how much pollution people here are exposed to.

That was about 12 months ago. I could literally taste the air, smell it, even feel it deep in my throat and my lungs.

Here's a fact, China is now the number one carbon emitter anywhere in the world. And carbon emissions create more particulate matter. That means more pollution, haze, smog, and trouble breathing are all signs.

SCOTT BUDINGER, DR., NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: People commonly associate particulate matter exposure or air pollution exposure with exacerbations of lung diseases, like asthma or emphysema. But really, the strongest link between particulate matter exposure and health is these -- this link to cardiovascular events.

GUPTA: That's right. Heart attacks and strokes can be triggered by pollution according to Northwestern University researchers. Here's how it works. Inhaling particulate matter can cause lung inflammation. That can stimulate a protein which makes your blood stickier.

BUDINGER: Pollution might cause the heart attacks by making the blood thicker. There is probably up to three years of life lost attributable to pollution in the most polluted compared to the least polluted American cities.

GUPTA: So in Beijing, who should be most concerned? Visitors or athletes who will be competing at extremely high levels of pollution? Researchers say visitors with preexisting heart disease or other risk factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, or cigarette smoking should be the most careful.

Interestingly, athletes tend to be younger and free of heart disease, so researchers say their risk is mainly respiratory.


GUPTA: And of course, we'll continue to follow the story throughout the Olympics. But here's something that caught my eye this week. Controversial new recommendations on prostate cancer screening. A panel of cancer experts says men 75 and older should not be screened. The panel says treatment can be risky among elderly men without evidence that it saves their lives. Interesting.

Of course, keep in mind these are general guidelines. Talk to the doctor about your own specific case.

The American Cancer Society maintains annual screenings should begin around age 45 for high risk men, particularly black men and men with a strong family history of prostate cancer. And by age 50 for all men. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death for American men. Treatment can be risky. So to reduce the risk, many are turning to a high-tech treatment option.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the instruments. And they kind of slide right into the arm of the robot.

GUPTA (voice-over): It looks like a video game. What you're watching is Dr. Nikhil Shah delicately remove a prostate. You see five feet away from the patient, he uses robotic arms and a joystick to perform the operation and he doesn't even have to scrub his hands.

NIKHIL SHAH, DR., ST. JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL OF ATLANTA: They take away some of the impreciseness of the human hand. I'm able to use my hands and control the instruments, but I'm able to do them more delicately.

GUPTA: It's called robotic surgery. And over the last several years, it has become very popular. Patients often traveling hundreds of miles to have this type of operation performed. Like Tony Pouncey. He's 60 years old, he's healthy, and active. But a few months ago during a routine visit, he got the shocking news. Prostate cancer.

TONY POUNCEY, DIAGNOSED WITH PROSTATE CANCER: Right away, I kind of freaked out a little bit and got on the Internet, called around to find out what I -- what was out there for me.

GUPTA: So Mr. Pouncey had a tough decision to make. What exactly to do about his prostate cancer and where to have it done. What he decided was to come to this operating room and have a robotic prostatectomy. Let's take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We put a total of six ports across his belly. They go through, but they don't do a lot of damage as they go through the tissue.

GUPTA: Admittedly, robotic surgery is less tested, but it also has proven advantages, less pain, fewer side effects, less blood loss. It's pricey, costing up to $15,000. Not always covered by insurance and dangerous, if not performed by a properly trained surgeon.

SHAH: I worry about that a little bit. I think that when you have such sophisticated technology and doing such complicated surgery, ask questions of the people there. What kind of experience does your doctor have?

GUPTA: But the experience has been outstanding for Tony Pouncey. Only weeks after his operation, he's back to his active lifestyle. And best of all, he's cancer free.


GUPTA: Now I got to tell you, that operation was absolutely amazing to see. And we're going to have much more on prostate cancer later on in the show in our "Ask the Doctor" segment.

Coming up, though, living like a hermit, depressed and cut off from friends and family, this man's desperate decision to get his life back almost cost him his life.

But first, Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey.


GUPTA: Changing diapers?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: Yes, changing diapers.

GUPTA: Pretty good at it?

MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, it's not a big deal.


GUPTA: So how was the delivery room, diapers, dealing with the paparazzi and all those new parent worries? He's here to tell you himself.


GUPTA: And we are back with HOUSE CALL. This is -- I love this show because of what I'm about to do now. We got a special guest in the studio, my friend, actor, producer and now I think the biggest accolade of all, new dad, Matthew McConaughey.


GUPTA: Just had a little boy, Levi.


GUPTA: Thanks for coming on the show. Appreciate it.

MCCONAUGHEY: Thanks for having me.

GUPTA: I wanted to talk about you being a new dad. So first of all, congratulations for that.


GUPTA: How are things going?

MCCONAUGHEY: It's going good. He's growing fast. I mean, you know how it is. It's pretty simple in these early months. They need to poop or eat. So they only cry if they have gas or if they want mother's milk.

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: And you know, I'm kind of in second place right now because he wants mom a lot. GUPTA: Levi McConaughey, that's his name.

MCCONAUGHEY: Levi Alves McConaughey.

GUPTA: I like that. So where did that come from?

MCCONAUGHEY: Levi is another name for Matthew. Matthew and Levi were the same apostle. So a favorite verse of mine in the book of Matthew in the Bible, 6:22. It's my favorite verse. We have a few names that we're thinking of naming the child, right. And Levi's one of them. But all of a sudden, Levi comes into the world, first cry out of his mouth we look up and it is 6:22 p.m.

GUPTA: You're kidding me.

MCCONAUGHEY: And we are like oh, my God, are you kidding me?

GUPTA: It is destiny.

MCCONAUGHEY: So he's in line and on time. Yes, so that's Levi. And Alves is her last name.

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: Which we said let's give -- let's make the middle name your last name, Camilla. So Levi Alves McConaughey.

GUPTA: And I read some about the delivery. You had Brazilian music playing ...


GUPTA: the room.

MCCONAUGHEY: We had a DJ for probably eight hours when she was going through the contractions. And the reason was contractions have their own rhythm, right. So we had to find our own rhythm to be a little bit above or on top of the contractions rhythm.


MCCONAUGHEY: So we had a good groove going. And she -- boy, that's when you see that there's a strength that a woman has. Maybe just woman kind has that we don't know about until you see them in that situation.

GUPTA: Did you guys have a plan ahead of time? And was she going to get an epidural, was she going to get pain meds? How did that all go?

MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, we did have a plan. Didn't happen. It didn't happen.

GUPTA: Sometimes the best laid plans.

MCCONAUGHEY: Yes. So we went in with ideals of doing it all natural. The first conflict was that was the reason we went to the hospital, her water broke 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning about seven days before the due date. So we went to the hospital. And we took our chances to say, you know, let's just keep trying to have contractions. She's contracting. Here we got them from eight minutes to six minutes to five minutes. We got on a nice rhythmic contraction. We got down to every three minutes, then two minutes.

And again, we're 40 hours into this now.


MCCONAUGHEY: Now the doctor is getting concerned about the water being broken and ...

GUPTA: And how -- she's suffering here, or is she OK, or how's she doing?

MCCONAUGHEY: I wouldn't say she's suffering, but she's having to dig deep into that. She's tired.

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: She's exhausted. She's in pain. You know, when the contractions come, we got to push. And in between them that 30 second interval, she's passing out ...

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: ...and then coming back to. And that went on for hours.

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: And we had this problem or this challenge, is the -- upon contractions, the baby's pulse would sink ...


MCCONAUGHEY: ...was getting down to 70, which means the umbilical cord is somewhere strapped across, you know, the esophagus or something. Doctor called a C-section. And as soon as they say C- section, I mean, 33 minutes later, the baby is out. You're like 60 hours we've been in here and if we had just come in and say, hey, let's just have it, you could do it in three hours. If they say C- section, it's three minutes later and the baby's out.

GUPTA: So no regrets about the way that it went?

MCCONAUGHEY: Absolutely not.


MCCONAUGHEY: No, it went down perfectly. And even though we went 60 hours to do what could have been done in a few hours, it was a great journey and for both of us. And her and I now have gone through something that we call it the best dance we've ever had. We've gone through something now that we're like, I know and you know and only you and I know.

GUPTA: That's good.

MCCONAUGHEY: And that's good for us.

GUPTA: Changing diapers?

MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, changing diapers.

GUPTA: Pretty good at it?

MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, it's not a big deal.

GUPTA: A lot of people are really scared about it.

MCCONAUGHEY: Now, I have some engineering things I could suggest.

GUPTA: You want to change diapers.

MCCONAUGHEY: For the changing tables.

GUPTA: Right.

MCCONAUGHEY: Things they could do. I won't bring them up on the show right now, but I've got some ideas for practically how things could be maybe designed a little better. May be being able to put a shirt on and actually leave with it being clean.

GUPTA: That would be a whole other show. We'll do that with you.

MCCONAUGHEY: Changing diapers is fine. And boy, you know another great thing, the swaddle. Oh, yeah, the swaddle is a really important to know how to do a good swaddle is a really important thing.

GUPTA: I got -- no question, this kid's going to turn out very well, Matthew. I appreciate your time very much. Just keep living as you always say.

MCCONAUGHEY: You got it, Sanjay. You too, brother.

GUPTA: I appreciate it, Matthew. Thanks so much for joining us.



GUPTA: A fascinating discussion, a fascinating guy. Well, catch more of my interview with Matthew McConaughey next week when I ask him about raising a child in Hollywood. How do you do it right? And is there a lesson in there for all of us. And also, lessons from his own father that he's going to share with his son. But next in my "Ask the Doctor" segment, which is worse for you, marijuana or tobacco? Plus, a man took a leap of faith and he won. The story you're not going to want to miss.

Up next, though, struggling with fertility. We got some of the best tips and they're coming your way. Stay with us on HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: For many couples, when they think about getting pregnant, they think nature should just take its course and they become a parent. But the reality is many couples do struggle with fertility.

The good news is there are many options out there. And in this week's "Empowered Patient," Elizabeth Cohen has given us some useful tips helping us navigate through the fertility maze -- Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, conceiving a baby is truly easy for many couples. But for others, it's not so easy. And navigating that infertility maze can be truly daunting with al the different procedures and the different clinics. So, in this week's "Empowered Patient," we have advice for couples who find themselves in this situation.

First of all, the advice we have here, the first piece, is extremely important. Do not wait too long to get help. And I'll talk about what too long means in a minute. Also, go on the Internet to get success rates for clinics in your area. You can compare each clinic on Web sites that we give you in our column on Also, stay healthy, don't drink too much, don't do illegal drugs, don't smoke, don't become obese. All of those things can cut down on fertility for men as well as for women.

So what do we mean by don't wait too long? Well, here are the numbers. If you're over 35, and you've been trying for six months to get pregnant, it is time to seek help from a fertility specialist. If you're under 35, it's time to seek help after a year of trying. But it's important to remember, don't wait too long before asking for help. So for more Web sites where people can get assistance when they're trying to conceive, go to -- Sanjay?

GUPTA: All right. Thanks, Elizabeth. Later in the show, viewers are going to ask the questions that are on their minds. Cancer, it's one of the hot topics. We're going to have that and much more in my ask the doctor segment.

Up next, though, what was the breaking point in this man's weight loss success? Find out right after the break. We're making a house call. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. Chad Swallow is finally enjoying life after a troubling experience with gastric bypass surgery. He's making a strong commitment for change and has a new lease on his own life. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice-over): As a young soldier, Chad Soileau prided himself on his athletic ability. But when he left the structured regiment of the military, his health went downhill.

CHAD SOILEAU, LOST 260 POUNDS: Within a year of getting out of the military, I really started putting on a good bit of weight. I would go on a diet and the weight would come off, 50 pounds, and I'd put on 100. It was a very, very dark, dismal place.

GUPTA: Stuck in a constant yo-yo weight loss cycle, Chad knew he was doing irreparable damage to his body.

SOILEAU: Getting on the scale at the doctor's office and seeing 464 pop up, that was a big wake up to me to know that, you know, Chad, if you don't do something now, you are going to be dead in ten years or you're going to be now close to it.

GUPTA: Knowing he didn't have the will power to do it without any help, Chad opted to have gastric bypass surgery. The operation was a success, but it didn't come without hardships.

SOILEAU: I went through so much to have the surgery. And then after having the surgery, having a blood clot, having internal bleeding, having to have my gallbladder yanked out.

GUPTA: But now weighing less than half his original size, Chad doesn't have any regrets.

SOILEAU: That's what's really gotten me through this entire process is my goals. To set up a list of goals, about 84 goals, I think, that included some silly things as being able to bend over and tie my shoes. I finished all my original goal list and realized that OK, let's set some new goals. I will be an iron man triathlete next year in November of 2009. Mark it.

My name is Chad Soileau. I've lost 260 pounds.


GUPTA: All right, Chad. Congratulations to you.

Coming up, though, clearing the air about marijuana. Lot of questions about this. We're going to answer your questions in our "Ask the Doctor" segment. That's after the break. Stay tuned.


GUPTA: And we're back with HOUSE CALL. It's time for my favorite segment, "Ask the Doctor," a chance to answer the medical questions that are on your minds.

Here's a question we got from Al in Pennsylvania. He writes, "I was just diagnosed with prostate cancer. My question is if I treat the cancer, do I have to worry about recurrence later in life?" Well, good luck, Al. Thanks for writing. Like most cancers, prostate cancer can recur after treatment. The doctors say it's not that common, so some good news there. Prostate cancer is slow growing. And when discovered in the early stages, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent.

Experts recommend PSA tests about every six months during the first five years after treatment and maybe yearly after that. Keeping up with doctor visits, reporting any new signs or symptoms are the key, as you might imagine, to fighting this disease.

Now, we got another question from our CNN health blog. Morna in Connecticut asks this. "Is the notion that marijuana smoke less harmful than tobacco smoke, true or false?"

That one's false. In fact, marijuana smoke actually contains up to 70 percent more of the carcinogens that irritate the lungs. That can lead to more daily coughs, more chest colds, and an increased risk of lung infection as well.

Researchers think that the reason for the increase is because in general, marijuana smokers inhale deeper and hold the smoke in their lungs longer than cigarette smokers. Here's the thing, though. Studies do not show a direct link between marijuana smoke and cancer. That causes some confusion. Tobacco smoke, of course, causes the lead on that.

Well, unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. And if you missed any part of today's show, check out my podcast on Remember, this is the place for the answers to all your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.