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Visit to a Lake Charles Hospital; Preparing to Evacuate in Event of Emergency; Doctors Displaced after Hurricane; Improving Health Later in Life; Counselors Help Children after Hurricane Katrina

Aired October 1, 2005 - 08:30   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And this just in to CNN. An update on the breaking news we brought you just a short time ago. According to the Associated Press, at least four explosions have gone off on a popular tourist island of Bali, that's on Saturday, injuring at least three Western tourists. At least three blasts went off on Jimbaran Beach, which is lined with seafood restaurants, frequented by tourists. That's in the reporting from the Associated Press.
Witnesses saw at least three bloodied Westerners leaving the scene. Once again, at least four explosions went off at a popular tourist island of Bali. We will continue to follow the developments in this breaking story and bring you an update at the top of the hour.

HOUSE CALL with Dr. Sanjay Gupta begins right now.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

During Hurricane Katrina, I saw firsthand the desperate and deplorable conditions at Charity Hospital. Just last weekend as Rita threatened the coast again, I headed to another hospital to see what, if any, lessons were learned from the devastation Katrina had brought.


GUPTA (voice-over): As Hurricane Rita hurdles toward the Louisiana coast, Christus St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana, decides to do what few other hospitals in the area doing -- stay open for business.

In a hurricane, hospitals are one of the community's most precious resources, responsible for the sick and the elderly and for taking the injured in during the storm.

Thursday morning, officials call for a mandatory evacuation. The staff races to get their patients out, as it becomes clear that Lake Charles and the hospital are in its path. More than 150 patients are evacuated by ambulance and helicopter in the two days before the storm, an emotional scene for nurses and others who watch.

(on camera): We're in a graveyard just outside Christus St. Patrick Hospital. The last few patients are leaving in this Army helicopter, evacuating further north, further east away from here, just outside Christus Hospital. A few patients critically ill still remain here in this hospital.

Friday afternoon, four patients remain who are simply too sick to move. Twenty doctors and about 50 staff stay, waiting anxiously. But they are prepared. Windows boarded up, supplies stockpiled, enough for five to seven days. And there are also recent lessons learned. Katrina was a different story.

Charity Hospital in New Orleans, the morgue was flooded, supplies were limited, and staff struggled to operate without power or running water. Here, generators are above sea level, clear plans are made to move the emergency room to higher floors in case of flooding. And surgery suites are prepared to operate on back-up power.

GUPTA: Is this the boy who cried wolf, or is this the real deal?

ELLEN JONES, CHRISTUS ST. PATRICK HOSPITAL: I don't know. You never can tell with these storms. You just have to be ready.

GUPTA: Two-thirty a.m., Saturday morning. Hurricane Rita makes landfall.

SUSAN BOYD, DR., CHRISTUS ST. PATRICK HOSPITAL: The stress of the medical situations that might arise is nothing compared to the fear that I felt when that wind started blowing.

GUPTA: Rain pours down overnight. Gale-force winds blow at over 125 miles an hour. The staff take shelter by sleeping in the hallways. The ceiling leaks. But through it all, the ER staff remains poised to take incoming patients.

And late Saturday morning, the wind finally dies down.

MARY FRANCES CORTINAS, SISTER, STAFF CHAPLAIN: I have had the experience of going through a Category 4 hurricane. And our founding sisters had that experience. Therefore, I feel that it's given me an added dimension to be ready and to know that God's presence in our midst never fails.

GUPTA: Whether it was faith, medicine, or outstanding preparation, Sister Mary Francis and the rest of the Christus staff have weathered the storm.


GUPTA: And one lesson that we've all learned in the last month is that being prepared, whether it's a hospital or your family, is critical.

Miles O'Brien sat down with Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and found out that there are quick and easy and inexpensive things you can do to be prepared for a quick exit.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: What should people be doing to protect their health when they get off on these long, and well, misadventures in some cases? We saw the case of Houston and of course New Orleans in both these cases.

DR. PAMELA PEEKE, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: You know, the first thing, everyone right now -- let's not wait for another hurricane -- you need to write down what's wrong with you. Are you allergic to something? Are you on medications? What's going on with you? And then you take that, easily written, you know, type it out, put it into a Ziploc bag so if it gets wet, who cares. Make sure that there's more than one copy of this around. If you live with someone, friends, family.

You know, what happens if, God forbid, you know, you can't talk to someone.

O'BRIEN: Right.

PEEKE: You're unconscious or whatever, you've got to have that immediately available. And you've got to think about this. In hurricane season, you're either going to end up stuck at home or on the road, one of those two things. It's got to be portable. You've got to hold onto it. You've got to be able to find it quickly, especially if something happens with the house. You're running on the road. And it's hard to think about things.

O'BRIEN: It's almost worth putting in your wallet or your handbag or something.

PEEKE: You got it. Yes. But it's got to be easily accessible.


PEEKE: Just grab it. Sometimes there's not even enough time for that handbag. Where is it? Everyone's got to know where that information is.

O'BRIEN: All right. That sounds like it's very important. What else is crucial in these cases?

PEEKE: Got to know about the medications. You know, people are on medications like insulin. You can't go, you know a-day or two without your insulin. It'd be great if you, number one, not only had it written down, but had extra doses sitting around somewhere, so that if you were stuck for a week somewhere without a pharmacy, you could have access to medication.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about medical emergency, first aid kits, whatever you want to call them. You can buy them sort of, you know, pre-made...


O'BRIEN: the drugstore. Are those good? Are there some things that...

PEEKE: Actually, most of those are really good. O'BRIEN: Yes.

PEEKE: You can get them fairly cheap, straightforward. One of the next things I like to do is make sure that you have an over-the- counter antibiotic, a topical, because you saw what happened in New Orleans. You get all those skin rashes and problems with the dirty waters and back and forth. You want to have something to be able to deal with the allergic reactions, maybe a little cortisone on top of that.

In addition, Benadryl, you know, ingestible. What if you are truly allergic to something that happens to you out there on the road all by yourself? It's also a mild sedative, you know, especially, you know, when you need a little bit of that extra sleep.


PEEKE: That 33-hour trip from, you know, Houston to Dallas...


PEEKE: I mean, you're in the back.

And then the final thing is if you have a problem with severe allergies, you know, like bees, things like this, then an EPIPen, you'd never know when that it's going to happen. And Epinephrine...

O'BRIEN: Have that with you.

PEEKE: All done but you've got to get it from your doc.

O'BRIEN: All right, final thought here. The people who we saw most adversely affected by this were folks on the lower-end of the social economic curve.

PEEKE: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: They don't necessarily have the money to put together these fancy kits.


O'BRIEN: What do they do?

PEEKE: All right, you can keep one that's simple and cheap. Just simply go out there for about five bucks. You could just get a little Ziploc bag. Throw into it just the easiest simple accessible resources.

You can actually get samples from your doctor. The public health departments also hand out some of these resources very cheaply. And you know, it won't cost more than $5 or $10.


GUPTA: All right, really good advice there. We are headed to Baton Rouge for a check-up of our own after the break. Stay tuned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their house ruined. Their lives revolving around getting cancer treatment for their little boy. Now Tony has taken a turn for the worse. We'll update you.


GUPTA: Well, last show, we told the story of Tony Nata. He's 6 years old and battling a deadly cancer at a new hospital in a new city, Baton Rouge. His family struggling to rebuild after Katrina.

Elizabeth Cohen went back down to Tony's home to bring us up to date. Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, I'm standing in front of Tony's house or what's let of it in Slidell, Louisiana. Because of Katrina, Tony missed a round of chemotherapy. They're trying to catch up, but it hasn't been easy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be all right.

COHEN (voice-over): How much can one family take? A house ripped apart.

TONY NATA SR., FATHER OF TONY: Waves were splashing up and around.

COHEN: And that's all mold?

T. NATA: That's all mold.

COHEN: Winds so strong, waves so high, the swing set landed across the street. Most of what the Nata family owns is in the front yard.

While Robin and Tony Sr. survey the damage to their home in Slidell, Louisiana, 6-year-old Tony Jr. has to stay in the car. All that mold could be toxic to a child with cancer.

Tony has leukemia. Three months ago, it looked like he was in remission. Then doctors found cancer in the membrane surrounding his brain. He has a 50/50 chance of surviving.

How do you keep going?

ROBIN NATA, MOTHER of TONY: You have to. You have to. It's about our kids. It's our life.

COHEN: It seemed like Tony was doing pretty well, all ready for another round of chemo. But then, bad news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Transfusion, you will be admitted for a short stay.

COHEN: Tony's too sick to get his chemo right now. He has to leave the clinic and go to the hospital to get a transfusion of blood platelets.

R. NATA: I know they say things happen for a reason. And you know, you're only given what you can handle, but it's tough. It's tough.

COHEN: Between trips to the doctor, Robin and Tony face a difficult choice. Save the house they love or move to someplace safer.

T. NATA: I beg for anybody or anything to help me with the answers, because they're not coming. They're not coming at all.

COHEN: In the end, little Tony may make the decision.

You catch fish this big?

Like generations before him, Tony lives for this marsh, this canal. Fishing is his favorite pastime, his only pastime really since he's too sick to do sports or even go to school. So his parents plan on rebuilding their house, cleaning it so even Tony, with his damaged immune system, can live here.

T. NATA: It has to be perfect. And I want it to be perfect. And it will be perfect for him.

COHEN: Perhaps it's hoping against hope.

T. NATA: I know we all have to become stronger after something like this. And dealing with little Tony, his situation, you have to become stronger. That's the only way we're going to survive.

COHEN: Hope right now is the most precious thing Robin and Tony have. The key to saving their house and to saving their son.


COHEN: The type of cancer Tony has is called acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It went from his bloodstream to the membrane surrounding his brain. He's being treated with several different forms of chemotherapy to beat it in the hopes that one day, he'll be able to come back home and lead a normal life. Sanjay?

GUPTA: Wow. Please keep track of Tony and let us know how he and his family are doing. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

First, though, a different kind of evacuee problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Among the fleeing people, thousands of doctors with nothing to return to. Will countless physicians be relocating and leaving the Gulf Coast? We've got that report.

But first, more of this week's medical headlines in "The Pulse."


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new study shows eating fruits and vegetables can help prevent lung cancer. A report published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association" studied smokers and non-smokers. Participants who ate the highest amounts of food containing phytoestrogens reduced their risk of developing lung cancer by 46 percent.

Phytoestrogens are found in plants, like carrots and broccoli and spinach, and limit the effect of estrogen on the body.

And it's autumn. Time for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to rank the nation's worst cities for fall allergy sufferers. Topping the list, Chicago and Little Rock, Arkansas. The annual ranking is based on pollen levels and other medical factor in 100 cities. Thirty-five million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies.

Christi Feig, CNN.


GUPTA: It's been over a month since Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi. Then came Rita. Among the hundreds of thousands of evacuees, doctors.

As Kathleen Koch reports, this leaves both the physicians and their patients with an uncertain future.


KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been one month since Dr. Antonio Stazio has seen a patient. The 75-year-old neurologist had been director of the Tulane Multiple Sclerosis Clinic in New Orleans. On duty and trapped there for a week after the hurricane, he was evacuated by helicopter carrying nothing but his laptop.

So this is one of your only earthly possessions now?


KOCH: Is your laptop.

STAZIO: And what I have on.

KOCH: What you're wearing?


KOCH: Photos sent by a neighbor who works for the police department show a tree on his house. Word from the university is even less encouraging.

STAZIO: The last letter we got from Tulane says we are -- Tulane is going to be "out of operation for several months, if not longer." So that means maybe a whole year. KOCH: Stazio and his wife are living with one of their daughters in Bethesda, Maryland. But he's desperate to return to the city and the patients he's grown so attached to over the last 20 years.

STAZIO: And I adopted a number of them. You know, they were all my kids in a way. And they loved me and I loved them. And now I feel like I'm deserting them.

KOCH: A study this week found nearly 6,000 doctors have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Some losing homes, businesses, all their medical records.

DR. ED HILL, PRES., AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Rebuilding a practice is difficult enough if you had records. But if you have no records and you also don't know whether you're going to have any patients or not, it makes it even more difficult.

KOCH (on camera): The American Medical Association predicts some doctors won't return or will choose to retire. It fears the disaster will worsen the already existing nationwide shortage of doctors and nurses.

(voice-over): Until he can return to New Orleans, Stazio is hoping to begin working with a hospital or university in Washington, D.C., where he's applied for a medical license.

STAZIO: And so I say, well, at least I can go to the school. I can see other doctors and see the students, the residents, maybe see some patients. So I still play doctor a little bit.

KOCH: Luckily his PowerPoint lectures are still preserved on his precious laptop.

STAZIO: So I'm ready to teach if you want know anything about M.S., I'll tell you.

KOCH: Kathleen Koch, CNN, Bethesda, Maryland.


GUPTA: Kathleen, thank you.

More HOUSE CALL is coming up. Kids living with Katrina.


CAROLINE GREEN, HURRICANE KATRINA EVACUEE: Katrina just washed away my whole house. My house just fell down like that. Everything just started falling like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Counseling in school, what therapists are hearing from kids about surviving the hurricanes. Their stories after the break.




FEIG (voice-over): As a retired Army paratrooper, 79-year old Vernon Coffey knows to stay fit. Even though he suffered a minor stroke 13 years ago, doctors say he bounced back because he was physically active.

VERNON COFFEY, ACTIVE SENIOR: It's like the old saying, you know, if you don't pay now, you pay later.

FEIG: But seniors like Coffey are unusual. A recent study by the American Public Health Association found that almost half of older adults surveyed were aware they needed to make changes in their lifestyles to improve their health, but they said they lacked motivation, money and time to do it.

JENNIFER HARTIG, FITNESS COORDINATOR: We've got bridge or a trip to the movies or just something going all day long every day. And so they'll say they're retired, but they don't have time to do it.

Come on, big guy.

FEIG: Doctors say it takes just a little effort to improve quality of health. People don't need fancy gyms or equipment to stay healthy. Just walking around the block can help.

By keeping active and seeing their physicians, many seniors can avoid the early onset of heart disease, hypertension, even type 2 diabetes.

In Washington, I'm Christi Feig.



GUPTA: When you're away from your TV, go to You're going to find the latest on survivors, plus ways you can help.

And if you or someone you know is struggling emotionally in the aftermath of these storms, try calling 1-800-273-TALK. Crisis counselors are available 24 hours a day to help.

GUPTA: The citizens of the U.S. Gulf Coast have survived two powerful hurricanes, but cleaning up brings its own trauma. As people live in their new reality, the loss of their homes and their livelihood can be overwhelming. For the children, what they've seen and heard can be hard to express. But as Elizabeth Cohen explains, expressing themselves is exactly what kids need to do.


CHOHEN (voice-over): What Caroline Green has a hard time saying, Parrot says easily.

ERIC GREEN, COUNSELOR: Did Parrot lose his house, too?

C. GREEN: Yes.

E. GREEN: What happened to Parrot's house?

C. GREEN: He had a hurricane.

E. GREEN: He had a hurricane.

C. GREEN: The hurricane came and blowed down his house.


C. GREEN: And Parrot was lonely, didn't have any friends.

COHEN: Caroline tells her story through her puppet. Her New Orleans home is gone. She's in a school where she doesn't know anyone. And when she sleeps, the monsters come.

C. GREEN: The monster got the big teeth. He has the big eyes.

COHEN: It all comes out in the play and art therapy these evacuee kids do with counselor Eric Green.

Playing with the puppets brings out just how much 9-year-old Caroline misses her home, which she now says is underwater.

C. GREEN: When I first moved in my new house, I was scared because I thought -- I thought I won't make no friends.

COHEN: Her family now lives in a church shelter more than 100 miles away from New Orleans in rural St. Landry Parish. Counselors came from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to volunteer in the local school system, now home to about 1,000 evacuee children. Dr. Green asked Caroline to make a scene in the sand, any scene she wants. And she does this.

C. GREEN: Katrina just washed away my whole house. My house just fell down like that. Everything just started falling like this.

COHEN: The plastic toys turned upside-down, reflecting her real life, a devastated home, cousins missing, friends missing.

C. GREEN: I think that they got flooded and things like that or they must have swim somewhere, but I don't know because I really do miss them.

COHEN: In another part of the room, 13-year-old Tommy Cumbaa shows a collage of what he misses most, like his cat. Do you think his alive?

TOMMY CUMBAA, EVACUEE: I think he is. I have my hopes.

COHEN: You loved your cat?

CUMBAA: So much. COHEN: Tommy and his family survived a week in their attic before being rescued. You've been through a lot in the past couple weeks. How do you feel?

CUMBAA: I feel that -- very grateful. It could have been worse.

COHEN: Dr. Green says he worries that these children will have post traumatic stress disorder. But that in general, these kids are resilient. He watches them work out solutions to their problems on their own.

C. GREEN: You don't have to be scared. You're my best friend.

COHEN: Frog and Parrot in the end homeless, but not friendless, help deal with the trauma of a life turned upside-down.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Opelousas, Louisiana.


GUPTA: All right, Elizabeth, thanks.

Unfortunately we're out of time for today. Make sure to tune in next weekend, when we'll be checking up on the latest breakthroughs in breast cancer research and treatment.

So e-mail your questions at We'll try and answer them at 8:30 Eastern Saturday and Sunday.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.


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