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Woman Undergoes Gastric Bypass Surgery to Get Pregnant; Artificial Heart Marks One-Year Anniversary; People Head to Dentist to Get Pampered

Aired July 6, 2002 - 14:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Gastric bypass surgery. It's usually done to help people get thin. But this woman did it to get pregnant.

The artificial heart turns one year old. The beat goes on, but it's not without controversy.

And people are heading to an unlikely place to get pampered -- the dentist's chair. Those stories coming up as CNN turns its focus to YOUR HEALTH right now.

Hello, everyone, I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Your health, there's nothing more important.

A large part of staying healthy is maintaining a healthy weight. We all know that obesity can lead to all sorts of health problems, like diabetes, like heart disease. But it can also be a factor in infertility. Elizabeth Cohen now introduces us to one woman who took an unusual approach and some might say even extreme approach to solve both of those problems.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That big smile is because after five years of infertility...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember my mom said to me one day well, maybe you're not supposed to be a mom, you're supposed to be an aunt.

COHEN: ... Tanya Dice Lovelace (ph) finally managed to have a baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was like mother, I can't believe that you said that. And I refuse to accept that. I believe in a heavenly father and so long as there is one, I will have a child.

Can I have a kiss?

COHEN: Tanya (ph) didn't do in vitro or any of the other drugs we've all heard about. She did something new, something on the cutting edge. She had her stomach stapled. She went from 270 to 208 pounds. She got pregnant with Clarence on the first try and then about a year and a half later, Audia (ph) was born. (on camera): This is just mind blowing that having gastric bypass surgery could help you get pregnant.

DR. MICHAEL ROSLIN, LENOX HILL HOSPITAL, NEW YORK: Well, the whole thing is mind boggling.

COHEN (voice-over): Dr. Michael Roslin at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City did Tanya's (ph) surgery. He explains that obesity can cause serious hormonal imbalances in some women. Whacked out hormones can mean no pregnancy.

ROSLIN: Then as they lose weight, they become very, very fertile.

COHEN: So far, there have been no studies to prove gastric bypass works for infertility, just anecdotal evidence. Dr. Roslin says about a dozen of his previously infertile patients got pregnant after the surgery. This radical approach to infertility isn't for everyone. As a rule, surgeons won't do it unless you're at least 100 pounds overweight and have tried to lose weight in other, less drastic ways. And you have to be willing to change your eating habits forever.

After the surgery, the stomach goes from this size to just this size, which means tiny meals for the rest of your life.


COHEN: As obesity rates continue to skyrocket in the United States, more infertile women may look to stomach stapling as a solution, but doctors warn it's a drastic step and while it seems to work for some obese women, it won't work for everyone.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, New York


GUPTA: Staying healthy without good eating habits is just about impossible. In fact, you're about to meet a woman who's been battling an eating disorder for decades. But strangely, the worst problems occur when she's asleep. Our Rea Blakey explains.


REA BLAKEY, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, you made some changes, huh?

(voice-over): Nancy Jordan says she has been eating while she's asleep for more than 40 years.

NANCY JORDAN, SLEEP EATER: I can go through a loaf of bread at night, if I want to.

BLAKEY (on camera): And that's all while you're asleep?

JORDAN: Yes, dry bread. BLAKEY (voice-over): The episodes happen seven or eight times a night, most every night, usually within an hour after she falls asleep.

(on camera): Did you sleep-eat the last time you slept?

JORDAN: What, last night?



BLAKEY: What did you have?

JORDAN: I don't know. I surmise the bread that was left here.


BLAKEY (voice-over): Dr. David Neubauer is a psychiatrist at the Johns Hopkins sleep disorder center in Baltimore. He says sleep- related eating is a compulsive behavior that mainly affects women, often beginning during their late teens.

NEUBAUER: They are so driven for this behavior, a lot of times, they become rather belligerent, in a very uncharacteristic way, if somebody tries to stop them from getting to food.

BLAKEY: Nancy has tried stopping herself by putting obstacles between her bedroom and the kitchen, but nothing works.

(on camera): Now, you told me, you even put a bicycle chain on your refrigerator and locked it to keep you from going in. But somehow you managed to go in.

JORDAN: That's why I got this one, because I did the same thing with that one. Now, I didn't do anything with this because I didn't think I was going to go to freezer food.

BLAKEY: But you have.


This is chicken breast. I had them the other night, cold, frozen.

NEUBAUER: What gets really problematic is when people decide that they need to cook something. And we've heard several episodes occurring where fires have started.

BLAKEY (voice-over): Sleep eaters sometimes try to devour nonfood items like cigarettes or soap. Nancy believes she has eaten some prescription medications while sleeping.

JORDAN: Some days, they are not there and I know I've taken extra. BLAKEY: What causes it? Who knows. Some experts theorize disturbances like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome may prompt an episode. Others blame stress.

JORDAN: Here's my Cardilupe (ph). That is the Parkinson's medicine.

BLAKEY: Which Nancy takes to help treat her sleep-eating. But the effect is limited.

JORDAN: The only way that I can cure it myself is just don't go to sleep.

BLAKEY: So Nancy never lays down for more than 15 minutes, a strategy that could be fueling her nightly fight with food.

NEUBAUER: Make sure that you are getting plenty of sleep, because, under circumstances of sleep deprivation, sometimes that makes it worse.

BLAKEY: Nancy Jordan says it would be hard for her sleep experience to be much worse. She is looking to find a cure.

Rea Blakey, CNN, Wilmington, Delaware.


GUPTA: On to other health stories making headlines this week. Hormone replacement therapy. Can it really help the hearts of women? That's our first report as we check "The Pulse."


GUPTA (voice-over): A new study has found long-term hormone use does not reduce the risk of heart attack in post-menopausal women with already existing heart disease. In fact, in addition to increasing the risk for a heart attack during the first year, HRT may increase the risk of developing blood clots and gall bladder disease. The findings of the seven-year study cast even more doubt on long-held beliefs that hormone replacement therapy protects the heart by mimicking the effects of natural estrogen.

The 14th International Conference on AIDS opens this week in Barcelona. Experts are painting a bleak picture for the course of the disease unless industrialized nations start spending more to help less developed countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations released a report in advance of the conference saying tat the AIDS epidemic hasn't yet reached its peak. Twenty million have died since it was discovered in 1981, but the report predicts 70 million will die over the next 20 years. Most of the deaths will be in sub- Saharan Africa, where infection rates can top 35 percent of the population, and only 4 percent of those infected have access to the latest drugs.

Tonsillectomy -- it's the most commonly performed major operation on children in the United States, and it should only be used in the most severe cases of throat infections. At least those are the results of a new study that showed that the modest benefits of a tonsillectomy, with or without adenoidectomy do not justify the inherent risk of surgery or the cost to young patients moderately affected by recurring throat infections.

For more information on any of our stories this week, go to our Web site. That's at


GUPTA: An now we have an update for you. Recently we brought you a story on nicowater. That's water with nicotine. Well, this past week the FDA nixed approval of it, calling it both "addictive" and "a drug."

Coming up, a novel treatment for Alzheimer's disease that may give new meaning to the term "brain drain."

But first, the artificial heart gives hope, but it also gives pause. A look at its record on the cusp of its first-year anniversary. All of that when CNN's YOUR HEALTH continues.


GUPTA: On July 2 of last year, medical history was made when doctors at Louisville's Jewish Hospital placed the world's first completely implantable artificial heart into 59-year-old Robert Tools. Tools, who had been given just a 20 percent chance of surviving one month without the plastic and titanium heart, lived for five months. In the past year, six other terminally ill patients have followed. And while researchers have deemed the medical experiment a success, others point now to the ethical issues being raised. Our Rhonda Roland has more.



RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy- one-year-old Tom Christerson made medical history in April, getting a hero's welcome when he became the first artificial heart patient to actually go home.

CHRISTERSON: Well, I'm here and proud to be here. And I hope to live to be 110.

ROWLAND: He's been living in Central City, Kentucky for more than two months, hanging out with friends, celebrating the birth of his first great-grandchild, even enjoying a bourbon every now and then.

The heart's been implanted in seven men so far. Christerson, who was just days away from death, got his heart nine months ago, then had to overcome a 107-degree fever and endure weeks of grueling therapy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really kind of mind-boggling. I don't know exactly why, you know, he made it. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of hard work on his part and our part, but we're just happy he has.

GEORGE ANNAS, BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: If we didn't have him, it would be over.

ROWLAND: George Annas specializes in health law and bioethics. He is concerned the last two artificial heart patients died during surgery and three recipients had strokes, which the heart's maker says may have been due to a design flaw that's been fixed.

The other living patient, James Quinn, looked good when this video was taken in January. But days later, he developed pneumonia that doctors say was not related to the artificial heart. This is Quinn on June 30, marking his 52nd birthday. When we talked to him the next day, he did not regret his struggle to recover over the past three months.

JAMES QUINN, HEART TRANSPLANT PATIENT: It's been meaningful, and I would do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are taking out a life sustaining organ and replacing it with a machine, and praying that this is going to work.

ROWLAND: But the experiment has not been working for Quinn's wife, Irene.

IRENE QUINN, WIFE OF JAMES QUINN: It just hurts so bad. I could not -- I mean, my husband would be crying out, "Somebody help me." This is something that I don't think I'll ever, ever get over.

ROWLAND (on camera): So if you could turn back the clock, what would you do?

I. QUINN: Go the other way. We would have never had it done. He doesn't have a good quality of life. He can't walk. He can't talk. He can't turn himself over.

ANNAS: I've always thought that these artificial heart experiments are essentially experiments on the family. I mean, you require a supportive family to be a candidate, and the person who has to live with it the longest actually turned out to be the spouse.

ROWLAND: Quinn and the other men who took a chance on this experiment feel they've made an important contribution. And the families, who've supported and suffered with them, hope this leads to answers for others suffering the devastation of heart disease.

Rhonda Rowland, CNN, Philadelphia.


GUPTA: So where do you go to unwind and get pampered? Where some people are headed may surprise you.

And later, this Alzheimer's patient is undergoing an experimental treatment that may slow down the progress of his disease.

But first, here's our "Doctor Q&A."


GUPTA: Alzheimer's disease is among the most feared aspects of aging, because there is no cure. Even though researchers are still working on pinpointing the causes of it, progress is being made in the realm of treatment. The focus now on ways to slow down the characteristic memory loss. Among the newest therapies under investigation, a brain drain.

Rhonda Rowland is back now with an explanation.


RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy-two- year-old Fletcher Barnes can play the saxophone, shoot about a 90 on the golf course, and for better or worse, take care of his yard. But ask him when he started playing the sax.

FLETCHER BARNES, ALZHEIMER'S PATIENT: Gosh, since about -- oh. Jack, how long have I been playing?

(UNINTELLIGIBLE), how long I've been playing the horn.

ROWLAND: His wife answered, since high school. How about a more recent memory, like what he had to eat for lunch, which he did just moments before this interview.

BARNES: I had lettuce. I forget what was on the lettuce. What did you put on the lettuce, I forgot.


BARNES: Tuna fish, yes.

ROWLAND (on camera): What it's like to live with mild Alzheimer's disease?

BARNES: It's frustrating, really, sometimes, but yet I do most anything I want to do, don't I?

ROWLAND (voice-over): And that's how he'd like things to stay. So now he's just hours away from taking his chances on a new, experimental therapy called "cogni shunt." That's designed essentially to wash the brain of Alzheimer's toxins.

BARNES: I'm really looking forward to it.

ROWLAND: The Barnes family knows it won't be a cure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The procedure itself will be successful, because they'll learn from this procedure -- good or bad.

ROWLAND: It works like this: a shunt, or a type of drain, is implanted in the brain to divert the spinal fluid, which bathes the brain, into the abdominal cavity.

DR. ALLEN LEVEY, EMORY UNIVERSITY: If there is something special about Alzheimer's disease, where the drainage is almost cut in half, almost like the pipes are backed up.

ROWLAND: With the pipes backed up, researchers think toxins stagnate the brain, so the idea is to wash out the toxins with a shunt and slow down memory loss.

(on camera): The cogni shut procedure sounds easy. After all, doctors have been using shunts for other medical conditions for years. But other Alzheimer's researchers say the procedure is risky. After all, it is brain surgery. And there's just one small study suggesting the procedure might help Alzheimer's students.

LEVEY: There certainly are skeptics, and there are going to remain skeptics. The more ideas that get tested, the more likely we are to find a cure.

ROWLAND (voice-over): It will take about two years for doctors to find out if this experiment worked. Just days before his surgery, Fletcher Barnes told us what he was hoping for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you get that?

ROWLAND (on camera): Would you think the surgery would be a success if it held you right where you are today?

BARNES: I think it will. That would be a success, if it would stop it here. And I am going to hope for a little more, but I'll settle for that.

ROWLAND: Rhonda Rowland, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: Coming up, a peek at some of our viewer e-mails. But first, you may get more than you bargained for on your next dentist's visit. But chances are, you won't mind. All of that when CNN's YOUR HEALTH continues.


GUPTA: Dentists are not usually known for their calming, soothing effects on patients. In fact, quite the opposite. The prospect of a trip to the dentist is enough to send blood pressure soaring and heart rates into the triple digits. But as Rea Blakey reports, there may be a new exception to that rule.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn toward me, please.

REA BLAKEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Busy New Yorkers who visit Dr. Paul Tanner's dental practice don't get new age Musak or lemon slices on their eyelids, just this. IZAMAR EVERETT, REFLEXOLOGIST: Just relax.

BLAKEY: One in seven Americans is afraid of going to the dentist. But here, relaxation is a subspecialty of sorts.

TANNER: You know you're having dentistry done. You know fear (ph) for a second, but you kind of focus on your feet.

BLAKEY: Thanks to the hands of Izamar Everett.

EVERETT: And they say to the dentist, I came here because Iza's (ph) here. I'm going to have a massage. And they love it.

BLAKEY: She performs reflexology, strategic massaging of patients' feet and legs from the moment they sit in the chair until their procedure is done.

GARY WEINSTEIN, DENTAL PATIENT: It's not a bad thing when you sit down and they start massaging your feet.

BLAKEY: The American Dental Association recommends stress reduction techniques, especially for patients with known heart disease. That includes scheduling short dental appointments early in the day to reduce heart attack risk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the frown winkles.

BLAKEY: This dental practice goes even farther, offering a plastic surgeon to perform minor procedures to help patients look younger.

(on camera): Why did you decide to come to the dentist's office for a Botox treatment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he's -- it was here. I come and see Dr. Tanner and so it's one place where I can get everything pretty much done.

BLAKEY (voice-over): Harried attorney David Rabbach likes the dentistry and the escape.

DAVID RABBACH, ATTORNEY: You come out of here less stressed than you went in.

BLAKEY: He says for people terrified of the dentist, this fancy footwork is a whole different approach that's paying extra dividends.

RABBACH: It even helped me increase my billing rate.

BLAKEY (on camera): How so?

RABBACH: I smile now. I can get more money.

BLAKEY (voice-over): His clients are often short on time, so being able to slide off the loafers, get a great foot rub and a root canal all at once is the ultimate in multi-tasking for this attorney. (on camera): You're the second attorney that's been in this chair today who has said that this is a relaxing experience.

YOSHI SHIMADA, ATTORNEY: Well, I guess attorneys tell the truth.

BLAKEY: Is there a question mark behind that?

(voice-over): Though the occasional shrill drill is still heard, the anxiety associated with it is often drowned out by this spa-like treatment.

Rea Blakey, CNN, New York.


GUPTA: I really enjoy getting e-mail from many of you, and in just a moment, we'll give you our e-mail address. But first, let's take a couple of questions from this week's electronic mailbag.

Sam in Portland, Oregon asks: "Can ovarian cysts cause infertility?"

Sam, the short answer is in all likelihood, no. An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms in an ovary, and it's quite common in women of child-bearing age. There are several different types of cysts. Most cysts are benign and go away on their own in one or two months. And most do not cause any symptoms. But any cyst can bleed, rupture, cause pain, or otherwise cause trouble, and may require treatment with either medication or surgery. Now, if you have ovarian cysts and are concerned, of course speak with your doctor about your particular case.

Our second question comes from Erin in Syracuse, and she wants to know: "How common are pierced ear infections?"

Well, infections do happen, Erin. The usual culprits are piercing with unsterile equipment, inserting unsterile posts, using earrings that are too tight, or frequently touching your earlobes with dirty hands. The signs of infection include tenderness, a yellow discharge, redness and swelling. Most mild infections will clear up within a week or two with proper care, and that includes removing the earrings three times a day, cleaning both sides of the ear lobe with rubbing alcohol, and applying anti-bacterial lotion before putting the earring back in. You should, of course, call your doctor if the earring clasp becomes embedded in the ear lobe, the swelling or redness extends beyond the pierced area, you develop a fever of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or the infection isn't improving after 48 hours. I hope that helps, Erin.

Well, I know many of you have other questions, maybe even about something that was on the show today. So for more information about anything we covered in the past half-hour, just go to our Web site. That's at And please, don't forget to send us your "Ask the Doctor" e-mails. That address:

Thanks for joining us. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And until next week, remember, your health, there's nothing more important.


Artificial Heart Marks One-Year Anniversary; People Head to Dentist to Get Pampered>



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