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Sanjay Gupta MD

Burned Iraqi Boy, 6 Years Later; Papal Pulmonology; Misusing Meds

Aired March 16, 2013 - 16:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Hey, there. And thanks for joining us.

The new pope once had a health scare. It cost him part of a lung. He's now 76 years old. So what does that mean for him now?

Also, prescription medications improve concentration. There's a new warning drives home the point. You should only do this with medical supervision, but what does that mean for your kids in school and maybe to you as well?

And a father with a dilemma. Was his son dangerous or just misunderstood? His son was facing 60 years in prison.

Let's get started.


GUPTA: First up though, an update on a boy who's become a friend of mine. His name is Youssif. You know, this week is 10 years since the start of the war in Iraq. And it's a painful reminder, particularly painful one to Youssif and his family.

You know, part of my reporting at CNN has been to tell you and to remind you that in wars, families and children suffer. And Youssif is one of them.

The story that led him to me began with his unimaginable cruelty. Masked men had come to Youssif's home. They covered him with kerosene and they set him on fire.

Now, it's hard to imagine anyone would do that to a child. He was just 5 years old. But nearly six years later now, Youssif's story isn't so much about the cruelty. It's about strength and resilience and also the pursuit of happiness.


YOUSSIF, WAS 5 YEARS OLD WHEN MASKED MEN SET HIS FACE ON FIRE: This is our classroom. I sit in that seat over there.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's amazing to me what a typical American, 10-year-old kid Youssif has become. YOUSSIF: Because the molecules move faster.

GUPTA: This was Youssif, just 5 years old. He was attacked by masked men in front of his home in Baghdad. They poured gasoline on his face and set him on fire.

(on camera): What's the first thing you remember about all of that?

YOUSSIF: I just, like, remember a doctor getting a sponge --

GUPTA: In Iraq?


GUPTA: They had a sponge.

YOUSSIF: I think they like scratched it on me or something.

GUPTA: They were trying to take off some of the burned skin.


GUPTA: Youssif's parents were desperate to see their boy smile again. So, just months after the attack, they came to the United States with a single suitcase. Their living expenses and medical expenses, all of it, was paid for by the kindness of strangers.

And we have followed their journey since 2007. Youssif has had 19 operations, a total of 61 procedures to help correct the burn damage.

(on camera): If you were going to have more operations, what would you want to have done?

YOUSSIF: Like over here.

GUPTA: On your right ear?


GUPTA: Let's see. You want it more like your left ear?


GUPTA: Do you tell people what happened to him?

WISAM, YOUSSIF'S FATHER: I have to tell them when they ask. Sometimes it bothers me when they don't ask and they keep just looking. It really bothers me.

GUPTA (voice-over): But it doesn't bother Youssif.

He's a happy kid. He's smart, confident. His parents say he never complains. He never asks about the scars on his face. WISAM: I hope he's not going to ask even when he grows up. That's going to really bother me a lot. If he's going to come to me and say, like, why my face is that? I don't know what I'm going to answer.

YOUSSIF: This one, I can see there's like one, two, three spaces.

GUPTA: Youssif's parents say all of this feels like a dream.

(on camera): Have you had a hard time making friends at all?

YOUSSIF: No. When a new kid, like the next day, we're like just friends.

GUPTA: Is that right?


GUPTA: Is anybody mean to you?


GUPTA (voice-over): He's been at the same school with the same kids since 1st grade. Come June, he'll say good-bye to this familiar place, because up next is middle school.

(on camera): Do you worry about when he goes to a new school now that he's going to get teased?


GUPTA: How does a father prepare his son for that?

WISAM: We have to be strong. And then we have to make him strong, too.

GUPTA: Once victims, now a family full of strength.


GUPTA: Well, I'll tell you, today, the family appears safe, even happy. Youssif's operations are covered by the California State Children's Services, in case you're curious, as they would be for other children who live in California as well. But, of course, as with many immigrant families, they do face significant financial challenges. In fact, most of the items you saw there in Youssif's apartment, they were donated by people from all over the country. If you want to help out, you can donate directly, you can reach Youssif and his family on Twitter @youssifiraqi.

And look beyond the headlines. You know, you couldn't miss the huge excitement in Rome over the selection of the new Pope Francis.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) GUPTA: But what you might not know is that Pope Francis also had part of one lung removed when he was a very young man. We're going to talk about this a little bit more.

Dr. Sumita Khatri, she's a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Thanks for joining us, Doctor. Appreciate it.


GUPTA: We don't have the details about this. A lot of people are talking about it. He apparently had a serious infection when he was young, late teens, early 20s, and had part of a lung removed. This is your area of expertise.

When you heard, what did you think? I mean, how common is this or was this at the time?

KHATRI: Well, when I heard how long ago it was, and then I think about how wonderful he looked there on the balcony and how inspiring he was for everyone, I thought to myself what a role model not just as a healer in his role as being the new Pope Francis, but also from the fact that someone who persevered from probably significant childhood illness and had a relative curative surgery that it didn't cripple in any sort of ways. That was encouraging.

GUPTA: What most people don't realize is that you are born with a lot of excess lung capacity. The body is both resilient and redundant. Most people use about 30 percent to 40 percent. But it's not like your heart where the whole muscle is crucial. So, you can remove a portion or maybe a whole lung without hurting the ability to breathe.

With Pope Francis, as you pointed out doctor, as far as we know, this hasn't slowed him down. But he's also 76 years old and missing part of a lung.

KHATRI: Right.

GUPTA: So, if you were his doctor, what would you advise him as far as any special health concerns?

KHATRI: You know, I think that whatever he's doing seems to be working well. I think in general, talking to any of my pulmonary patients who have long conditions, staying active, and staying physically fit otherwise is very helpful. Making sure the rest of your body is fit and other chronic illnesses are well-managed, such as diabetes or hypertension.

And then basically making sure you are taking proper precautions, getting your vaccinations, treating infections early. And he's going to be in the public so it's going to be difficult to avoid being around people who are sick. In fact, as long as he sort of takes care of himself and gets proper care and immunizations, he should be OK. He's been doing this a long time.

GUPTA: Get your flu shot, too. You're saying?

KHATRI: Get your flu shot. I say it every year.

GUPTA: We'll remind the pope of that.


GUPTA: Dr. Khatri, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

KHATRI: Happy to be here. Thank you.

GUPTA: And coming up, something interesting. It's known as cosmetic psychiatry. Taking medicines you don't need so you can function better.


GUPTA: You know, last week, this story got my attention. I think in part because I have kids.

Two moms launched this online petition calling on food giant Kraft to remove two ingredients from its popular mac & cheese. And a few hundred thousand people signed on to this whole campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We found out that Kraft is using two ingredients in their U.S. version of mac & cheese, yellow number five and yellow number six. But they are not using it overseas.


GUPTA: So, yellow number five and yellow number six. These are artificial colors. And to be clear, they are FDA-approved. But some critics say they are not totally benign.


MICHAEL JACOBSON, EXECUTIOVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Food dyes trigger hyperactivity, inattention, temper tantrums, those kinds of behavioral changes in some subset of children. Even the Food and Drug Administration now agrees with that.


GUPTA: So, we decided to talk to Kraft as well. And for their part, they say, quote, "The safety and quality of our products is our highest priority. And we take consumer concerns very seriously."

The company also sells plenty of mac & cheese identical in taste and nutritional values that does not have added those added food colorings.

For now, the products are still in this box. But we'll keep you posted if, in fact, they are removed.

"Under the Microscope" today, cosmetic psychiatry -- that's what they call it. It's the use of prescription medications by people who don't need it, often times just to improve their focus, their concentration. And there's this new report that says, in many cases, it's actually parents pushing their kids to take the medications. Parents need to listen to the story.

And joining me to talk about it -- from San Diego, Dr. Allen Frances. He's the former chairman of psychiatry of Duke University, also author of the upcoming book, "Saving Normal."

Thanks for joining us, Doctor.


GUPTA: I have kids. You know, this is one of the most common topics when parents get together, it seems.

Let me start off with this question. With regard to these medications, are they risky from a physical standpoint to a child's health?

FRANCES: Well, if the kid really needs the medication, it's a great thing to have. It can be very, very helpful.

But most of the kids who are getting treated for attention deficit disorder now don't need it. And certainly the cosmetic use of these medications for performance enhancement makes no sense at all.

GUPTA: Does it put their heart -- it's essentially amphetamines which is a type of speed to put it in context for the audience. Is that risky?

FRANCES: Well, it can cause anxiety, sleeplessness, weight loss. In some kids, it causes cardiac problems. The long-term effects are largely unknown. In some kids, it may provoke manic episodes. In others, it maybe a risk factor for substance dependence.

But I want to underscore the fact that the medication can be remarkably useful when used well for someone who is carefully diagnosed. What's happening now though is that many kids aren't carefully diagnosed and they are getting the medicine unnecessarily.

GUPTA: Along those lines, a little bit of history. In 1994, you were chairman of the group that wrote what's known as the DSM-4. That's essentially the bible, if you will, the manual that determines the criteria for various types of disorders.

And since that manual came out, Doctor, the diagnoses of ADHD had tripled. That feeds into the point that parents say, look, it just seems like every child has ADHD. I mean, every -- we didn't use to hear about this when was a kid. Is it because of the looser, broader definition of ADHD?

FRANCES: Well, the rates have gone from 3 percent to about 10 percent. And 4 percent of kids are getting medication. We predicted a 15 percent chance. Why has it tripled? Two things happened we didn't anticipate -- expensive new drugs on patent came onto the market. This gave the drug companies the means and the motivations to advertise very, very heavily.

At the same time, Congress gave the drug companies a complete carte blanche to directly advertise to consumers as much as they wanted. We are the only country in the world that allows drug companies this degree of freedom.

They took advantage of it. They marketed it aggressively to doctors, aggressively to parents and to teachers. And this has created a bubble of ADD diagnosis, with many kids inappropriately diagnosed and inappropriately medicated.

GUPTA: I think you make a really good point. And, you know, it's interesting. Because we hear about this all the time with regard to ADHD, and other disorders as well. Patients, doctors, teachers and in this teachers co-opted in a way, thinking they are doing the right thing. I mean, but often times not.

Doctor, thank you. Thanks for joining us. You know, a lot of parents out there, myself included -- I think it's important to hear what you have to say. Good luck with the book as well.

FRANCES: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: Coming up, we're going to talk to a father who wrote movingly about being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and then realizing that he had, in fact, passed it to his son as well. They're both here to talk about it.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: Misfit, truant, delinquent -- my next guest says he wasn't a model child and is not a model dad either but he still has plenty of parenting advice. He's a best selling author John Elder Robison. He got this brand new book. It's called "Raising Cubby: A Father and Son's Adventure with Asperger's, Trains, Tractors and High Explosives."

John joins me now, along with son Cubby from Chicopee, Massachusetts.

Welcome to both of you. Thanks for joining us.

JOHN ELDER ROBISON, AUTHOR, "RAISING CUBBY": Thanks for having us on with you.

GUPTA: John, let me talk about Asperger's. I'm curious. All your life, you knew you were different in some way. But not -- why until age 40 were you not diagnosed with Asperger syndrome? Why did it take so long? J.E. ROBISON: Well, remember, I was born in '57. Asperger's wasn't really talked about by psychologists and therapists in America until, you know, the late '90s. And I was 40 at the time. So, when my son was born in 1990, I didn't know about Asperger's or autism either, but I saw in him the same behavioral differences that I remember from my childhood though I didn't know they were autism. I knew how I had struggles and I tried to advise him as best I could based on my experience, being the same way.

GUPTA: Cubby, I want to talk to you in a second.

But, John, if I could ask about that. What were those behavioral things that you say you recognized in Cubby? I'm fascinated by this again, in part as a neuroscientist. What were you looking for?

J.E. ROBISON: Well, first of all, I'd say I wasn't looking for anything. Like any parent, you know, you always hope your kid's better than you, he's brighter, and cuter, and smarter. But when I would go with his mom and we would put him down at day care, there might be two, three other kids on the floor next to him.

And I sort of thought, well, maybe this would be like pouring goldfish into a tank, you know, and Cubby would be swimming with them all mixed up. But he didn't do that. Cubby would stay by himself.

And that made me remember my own time as a little boy and how I wanted to engage the other kids and have friends and I didn't know how. I couldn't tell. Was Cubby wishing he could do it and not know how or did Cubby truly not have interest? It was hard to know. But I knew that was different and it was like me.

GUPTA: It's really fascinating.

Cubby, I mean, you have to excuse me. Would you say you first noticed you were different from other kids? Is that -- is that a fair way to characterize it?

JACK "CUBBY" ROBISON, JOHN'S SON: I didn't really learn it from them. I have always known it. I have always known he's different than all of my friends' fathers. My mother is different from my friends' mothers in a very distinct way. I sort of got the impression I'm not quite the same type of animal, you know?

GUPTA: What are --

J.E. ROBISON: I think Cubby is fortunate because he thinks he's different, when I was a little boy I felt like I was defective, which I think was a worse way to feel.

GUPTA: That's really interesting. And I'm sure a lot of people at home watching the way you characterized that I think is going to be very interesting for them.

J.E. ROBISON: It's so common that people who are different are misinterpreted. Whether it's somebody like Cubby with a scientific curiosity that's twisted into imagined criminality, or maybe a young fellow, Cubby's age, with autistic speech challenges and an officer calls out to him, hey there, young man, come here, and he ignores him because he's autistic.

And they end up in a fight and the kid with autism gets arrested when all he was ever doing was standing there, and he didn't respond -- not because he was trying to get something over on the cop but he was autistic and had speech challenges. And that's a tragedy when that kind of stuff happens to young people.

GUPTA: Well, I appreciate you guys coming on. You know, it's important for people to hear this discussion. It comes up a lot in our society, maybe more than ever.

So, John and Cubby, thanks. Good luck with the book. Everyone should read the book. Thank.

J.E. ROBISON: Thank you for having us on.

C. ROBINSON: Thanks for having us.

GUPTA: Thanks, guys.

And next up, something you're going to want to keep in mind before you go out and drink this St. Patrick's Day.

Stay with SGMD.


GUPTA: Just two months ago, we set our six Fit Nation participants loose on their journey to become triathletes. Now, one of them, I'll point, Annette Miller, she started her journey even earlier. In January of 2012l, she weighed 385 pounds. And by the time she applied for our program, she had already lost more than a hundred. Now it's 146 pounds off the scale.

Last week I got to see her in Nashville.


ANNETTE MILLER, FIT NATION PARTICIPANT: When it comes to working out you only get out of it what you put in. I can remember not being able to, you know, maintain for 30 minutes. And, you know, I can run for two hours now or when I'm doing a spin class, I still have steam left at the end of an hour. So, it feels good to just keep building on that. Like, oh, I can do a little bit more today than I yesterday.


GUPTA: And there is more to the story than that. Annette also inspired her own sister who was considering gastric bypass surgery but had a change of heart when she saw Annette's progress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MILLER: About a month ago she just told me, you know, I have been watching you and I have seen how you have done this and how you've changed your life. I have seen your attitude change. And I'm going to try it without the surgery first. She said, because you have done it, I think I can at least try.


GUPTA: That's a great story. It's what this is all about. We're going to keep checking in with Annette and her sister.

And, Annette, I will see you at the Nautica Malibu triathlon, hopefully at the finish line in September.

"Chasing Life" now for St. Patrick's Day. Here's the message: have fun but also be smart. Many people make the holiday all about drinking. Don't overdo it. I get it.

What does that mean? That's the question. So, here is a rule of thumb.

For healthy adult men, a healthy level is no more than 14 standard drinks a week. Still quite a bit. Standard drink, in case you're curious, is one beer, one five-ounce glass of wine, or one and a half ounces of liquor.

Now, for women, the healthy upper limit is no more than seven drinks a week. Ladies, make sure not to drink them all on St. Patrick's Day. That's a good message.

Also, anyone over 65, man or woman, should keep it to just one drink a day.

And also a reminder, this never hurts. Don't mix these with prescription drugs. And also, don't drink and get behind the wheel. Just don't do it.

That's going to wrap things up for SGMD. Let us know what you think of the show, and follow us on Twitter @DrSanjayGupta.

Up next, though, a check of your top stories in the "CNN NEWSROOM."