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High Tech Medicine in the Form of a Pill; Back to School, Back to the Doctor?; Anesthesia Awareness; Young Vegetarians

Aired August 11, 2007 - 08:30   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: ...a second drill has made its way into the cavity where they believe the six miners are trapped. A camera is then going to be put down into that hole to see what it can see and possibly get us some real answers to the fate of those six men. Expecting that answer and that camera to get down there and pictures out of there possibly at any moment now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And we've got a lot coming up this morning. At about -- in the 10:00 hour Eastern, family members are actually going to be on site. Also, mine officials are going to be holding a press conference. And we also are going to be turning around a taped one on one interview with Bob Murray, the owner of that mine there.

We're going to have more, of course, on this search for those six trapped miners at the top of the hour. But if there are any breaking developments, we will break into programming and bring them to you.

HOLMES: And that program we might have to break into is HOUSECALL with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which starts right now.

SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Thanks, guys. This is HOUSECALL. We're making the rounds this morning of some of the most intriguing medical stories of the week.

First up, high tech medicine that could save people's lives in all this heat, and all of it in the form of a pill.

Then should back to school mean a trip back to the doctor? What parents need to know before kids head to school.

And in surgery, on the table, supposedly under anesthesia, yet you feel just about everything. It's the story of anesthesia awareness.

Finally, young vegetarians. Is it safe for children's growing bodies to go meat free?

First up, though, some of this week's medical headlines. After months of debate, a federal panel of scientists concluded that a chemical found in plastics could pose some risk to the brain development of babies and children, but not adults. It's called bisphenol A (ph) and it's a chemical commonly found in baby bottles and other plastics. The findings could lead to regulations restricting its use. And just about everyone on the East Coast is feeling it or recovering from it. It's a heat wave. And it's pushing temperatures into the 90s and above. Every year in the United States, intense summer heat kills dozens of people. And as the mercury climbs, so does the risk of heat related illness.

So if possible, obviously, stay inside. And if you have to go out into the heat, drink lots of water. Athletes across the country are training in this heat, sometimes with deadly consequences. In fact, between 1995 and last year, 31 football players died from heat stroke. This includes players in the pros, college, high school, even youth league football. But now some very high tech help in the form of a pill.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim reports.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The University of Texas Longhorns are one of the nation's top football programs. And senior Drew Kelson is one of their top players, a defensive back with lightning fast feet.

DREW KELSON, UNIV. OF TEXAS: You know, you have to come out every day and work to get better and better.

OPPENHEIM: Drew is also one of a few Longhorns who have been diagnosed as having a tendency to overheat.

KELSON: I'm just a heavy sweater. And I lose a lot of, you know, fluid when I'm running.

KENNY BOYD, UNIV. OF TEXAS ATHLETIC TRAINER: There you go. Down the hatch.

OPPENHEIM: So before every workout, team athletic trainer Kenny Boyd gives Drew what's called the core temp ingestible pill, a capsule filled with batteries and more.

BOYD: Inside that, you have a quartz crystal, which is probably, for the pill, that's the main thing that makes it tick.

OPPENHEIM: Four hours after the pill passes through the stomach, it transmits data to an electronic recorder and gives Boyd a precise readout of Drew's internal body temperature. For Drew, it's a very big deal. Just 21 years old, he's known three football players who died. In each case, overheating was a factor. One, a friend from high school.

KELSON: He died on the field. I mean, they tried to bring him back on the ambulance on the way to the emergency room, but unfortunately, they weren't able to.

OPPENHEIM: The University of Texas is one of a handful of college and pro teams now using the pill, prescreening players who tend to heat fast and pulling them aside to cool down when they get too hot. The awareness stems from tragedy. In 2001, Cory Stringer, a 335-pound offensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, died from heat stroke during a summer practice.

BOYD: You know, even more recent deaths that have occurred throughout the collegiate and professional community have really heightened our awareness.

OPPENHEIM: What they've learned is that athletes' responses to rising internal body temperature can vary. I wanted to see for myself. Wow, that's pretty big. I took the pill, and about four hours later had my body temperature checked.

BOYD: Right now you're reading at 99.08.

OPPENHEIM: Then went out on a track for a four-mile run.

BOYD: Hey, Keith, got a good pace going.

OPPENHEIM: Yes, I'm pushing it a little harder, coach. How am I doing?

BOYD: Let's see where you're at.


BOYD: Adjustable pill says 100.77. That's a little more than a tenth increase from the last lap.

OPPENHEIM: I actually do feel pretty hot. It turns out I have a fairly good sense of my internal temperature. But that's not the case for Texas Longhorns offensive lineman Tony Hills. At 6'5" and 305 pounds, Tony heats up faster than most, in part because of a genetic predisposition, which affects his internal temperature.

BOYD: We're getting close, Tony. We're going to keep watching you, OK?

OPPENHEIM: In this workout, Tony's body temperature goes over 103 degrees. Kenny Boyd pulls him aside to cool down and drink water.

TONY HILLS, UNIV. OF TEXAS FOOTBALL PLAYER: When you're so focused on one thing, you know, you pretty much tune everything out.

OPPENHEIM: The problem comes when players don't know they're getting dangerously hot.

ANDREA PANA, DR., UNIV. OF TEXAS PHYSICIAN: Some people will exercise, their temperatures will go up. And then they'll suddenly collapse at a certain temperature and not exhibit symptoms before the collapse.

OPPENHEIM: On this team, no one claims a temperature pill is the miracle that will prevent heat stroke, but no one doubts this high tech way to watch high body temperatures could save a player's life.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Austin, Texas. (END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Keith, thanks. And you may be wondering why everyone isn't using this new technology. Well, one reason is cost. Each pill runs about $40.

Now we turn to another concern at this time of year, and that is the push back to school. While you're checking off the school shopping list with new clothes and notebooks, there's another list that's just as important. And Dr. Pamela Gallin is here to give us her top pointers for getting kids checked out before school. Now Dr. Gallin is a pediatric surgeon at Morgan Stanley Childrens Hospital. She's also author of the "Savvy Mom's Guide to Medical Care."

Welcome, Dr. Gallin.


GUPTA: And let me add to that as well. You're a surgeon, you're an author, you're also the mother of four children.

GALLIN: Proudly.

GUPTA: So you're - proudly. So you're in a unique position to be able to talk about this. What is your one of your best tips of advice for kids going back to school?

GALLIN: Children can't learn properly if, in fact, they can't see and hear. And there's absolutely no way for a parent to tell that their kids can see or hear. Hearing and vision loss are silent, silent diseases. If, in fact, you think that your child might not hear or see, get an eye exam. Or if you really want to know, get an eye and a hearing test.

GUPTA: Yes. There's another thing along those lists. That's really good advice about the vision and hearing tests. Regarding vaccines, though, there's a couple of vaccines that CDC is recommending for these preteens, you know, 11 or 12-year-olds. One of them's for meningitis. And the other one's for cervical cancer, for HPV. What do you think about that?

GALLIN: I think it's wonderful. Originally, vaccines go to the group that's most needy. At the beginning, the meningitis vaccine went to kids in college because there were a lot of them in a closed space in a dormitory. Now the recommendation is for 11 and 12-year- olds, because they're entering middle school. As for HPV vaccine, I think it's wonderful and mandatory. But you want to give it to them ahead of the curve, that is, before our kids are sexually active.

GUPTA: What about kids who have some sort of illness? I mean, you're a doctor, but illnesses like asthma or something where they require medications, diabetes perhaps. How do you best talk to your kid's school or doctors about that?

GALLIN: Well, in fact, my son does have asthma. And you need to plan your emergency in advance. And as a parent, it's very important because you need to know who, in fact, is responsible for your child in an emergency situation. Is it the teacher? Is it the nurse down the hall? Is it a teacher's aide?

Where is the medication kept? Is the inhaler in your child's backpack? Or is the epi-pen down the hall? And how is it going to be given? And when is it going to be given? Is the child going to self administer the inhaler? Is somebody going to give him an epi-pen? And do they know how to do it? A parent needs to work all of this out in advance before the emergency.

GUPTA: Yes, that's good advice. And I know some kids, the first time they found out they have a peanut allergy might be when they first start school. So really having people knowledgeable about that.

So another question. You know, we always had the annual physical. And you needed that before you'd start every year of school. Do kids still need that? And what should go on in an annual physical like that?

GALLIN: Well, the Pediatrics Association has what's worked out. Each state mandates the immunization schedule very specifically for the kids. And we feel very strongly that knowing that your child can hear and, in fact, knowing that they can see is a big part of that.

So the annual physical is of great importance. Some schools require annual physicals at different entry points, specifically usually kindergarten, a new student, or middle school and high school, and for sports updated annually. And it's to protect the kids.

GUPTA: Right. Good advice. Dr. Pamela Gallin, I'll tell you as well, I have two kids, a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old. So little young still for some of that, but I'll certainly keep some of this advice in mind.

GALLIN: Thank you kindly.

GUPTA: Thanks for joining us on HOUSECALL so much.

GALLIN: Good morning.

GUPTA: Dr. Pamela Gallin.

There's also a disturbing footnote as well. A new study shows that more than 2 million children can't get some of these state purchase vaccines to prevent meningitis. It actually seems that the children at risk of not getting the vaccine are not those without insurance. They can actually get the vaccines through some governmental programs.

Rather, it's kids whose health insurance doesn't cover the newly recommended shots. Stay where you are though. Coming up on HOUSECALL, surgical patients nightmare. Imagine not being able to speak or move during surgery, but feeling all the pain. It happens. Learn how it might be prevented. Then, lifesaving tips. I'm going to tell you five things that could save 100,000 lives a year. One of them just takes a few seconds a day.

Plus your child wants to be a vegetarian. Now what do you do? Tips for keeping kids healthy while they go meat-free. All that's ahead on HOUSECALL.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Imagine hearing and feeling everything during surgery, yet being paralyzed, unable to move or to speak. The condition, which some call anesthesia awareness, is rare. But as David Mattingly reports, those who experience it say they'll never be the same.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We know how it's supposed to work. We go in for surgery. The anesthesiologist puts us to sleep. And then we wake up after the surgery's done. This is what happens when things go wrong.

TODD WHITLOCK, ALERT DURING SURGERY: There was pain. There was a pain that you cannot deal with.

DIANA TODD, ALERT DURING SURGERY: It just goes on and on. And you're screaming inside your head.

MATTINGLY: These former patients went under the knife, but did not go under. They heard, they felt, they remembered everything.

ERIN COOK, ALERT DURING SURGERY: I just kept praying, God, please just knock me out. Just knock me out. Let somebody know that this hurts so bad.

MATTINGLY: Victims call it anesthesia awareness, a condition that occurs when anesthesia paralyzes the body, but through some error does not render the patient unconscious.

(on camera): A 2004 study estimates it happens to 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 patients. That's potentially thousands of people every year who go into surgery and come out with some memory of what happened.

COOK: I was startled awake because I could feel the doctor cutting me open.

MATTINGLY: Erin Cook went in to have an ovary removed in March. She emerged with vivid memories of searing pain, feeling trapped in her body, unable to move or speak. The experience left the young mother psychologically scarred and in need of therapy.

COOK: The fear of dying has become something that I live with every day. MATTINGLY: Victims say they are frequently unable to sleep and filled with anxiety. In 2006, Sherman Sizemore, a Baptist minister from West Virginia, took his own life after his family claims he was conscious for 16 minutes during abdominal surgery. Have any of you ever thought about suicide?

TODD WHITLOCK, ALERT DURING SURGERY: The thought entered our minds when we were there on that table. And they were cutting into us with a pain that was beyond description. The first thought comes to your head, dear, God, come and take me now...

COOK: Take me now.

WHITLOCK: ...because I can't deal with this.

MATTINGLY: A victims' group called the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign says many cases could be prevented by a device in more than half of the nation's Ors. A machine that monitors brain activity.

But the largest manufacturer of these devices reports they were used last year in only 17 percent of general anesthesia surgeries. Keeping them honest, we went to the American Society of Anesthesiologists and found that organization stopped short of recommending monitor use, leaving that decision up to the doctor.

You say that one case of awareness is too much. Could these devices prevent that one case?

MARK LEMA, DR., AMER. SOC. OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS: That's what we're studying. And that's what I'm trying to emphasize, that as a society, as a medical specialty, as medical scientists, we need data to show that.

MATTINGLY: Society president Mark Lema says his organization is only beginning to study the reliability of brain activity monitors and questions claims that there are thousands of victims a year.

LEMA: We've known this to be a rare side effect of anesthesia since I've trained in the '70s and before that. The incidents that we've seen on reports that have come to the ASA have been maybe a few cases a year.

MATTINGLY: But critics say that's because historically, anesthesiologists rarely track their patients. Any idea how often an anesthesiologist actually is able to follow up with a patient and ask them, did you have any awareness during that surgery?

LEMA: I can't answer that question.

MATTINGLY: Anesthesia awareness has been making headlines at least since 1994. A decade later, an ASA president questioned his own organization's fact gathering. He asked, "Will patients be denied the potential benefits of innovation because of a deadly perfectionism?"

WHITLOCK: What happened to us can't happen to other people. TODD: Your whole existence becomes that pain that you're in. There's nothing else. It is the total measure of your existence for that time.

MATTINGLY: Before their surgeries, these patients had never heard of anesthesia awareness. Now they say there's no escaping it.

David Mattingly, CNN, New York.


GUPTA: And if you're facing surgery and you're concerned, you should talk to the person in charge of your anesthesia and your doctor about your risk. Also, what precautions you might be able to take.

Just ahead, 8-year-olds taking statins. A new study claims it might be a good idea for some children. We've got the science after the break.

And later, vegetarian kids avoiding some of the nutritional pitfalls of going meat-free while you're still growing. Stay with us.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Researchers this week found by just taking five steps, 100,000 lives could be saved every year in the United States. The biggest lifesaver, adults taking aspirin daily to prevent heart disease.

Today, fewer than half of American adults do this. Another lifesaver, this is an easy one. If adults 50 and older would get annual flu shots. This could save 12,000 lives. To find out the rest of the top five, you'll have to check out my blog at

Now let's check in with my partner Elizabeth Cohen. She's here with this week's medical headlines. Elizabeth?


Sanjay, a new study says children as young as 8 years old who are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol may safely be prescribed statin therapy to lessen the chance of heart disease later in life. The study found that kids that took cholesterol lowering statin drugs were less likely to have thickening in the arteries, compared to those who took a placebo. Thickening of the arteries is considered a risk factor for heart attacks. This study was funded by the drug company Bristol Myers Squib, a maker of statins.

And another study proves the power of packaging. According to research published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, preschool children preferred Mcdonald's foods and drinks in the familiar golden arches packaging to the same foods and drinks in unbranded packaging. Study authors say this supports a move by Mcdonald's and ten other food and drink companies who announced new guidelines on marketing to children under age 12. Now here's one about binge drinking. Most adult binge drinkers choose beer as their beverage of choice. That's according to a study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that beer accounted for 67 percent of all binge drinks consumed. Liquor came in a distant second with 22 percent. Sanjay, back to you.

GUPTA: I wonder if that's a generational thing. Maybe we'll find out. Elizabeth, thank you so much. And you can catch more of Elizabeth's amazing reporting on She has a weekly column there called "The Empowered Patient." This week, she's talking about one of the biggest concerns of new mothers -- my wife is one of these people -- breast feeding. Check it out.

Stay where you are, though. For now, picky eaters are one thing, but a child who does not consume any meat can be tricky for any parent. Keeping your child healthy and making the right food choices. That's coming up.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSECALL. In today's "Fit Nation Report," we're looking at children's diets. And I'm not talking about fast food, but vegetarian diets. These diets, of course, have been touted as healthy for years. But what if your child wants to go completely meatless? Is that safe for a growing body?


GUPTA (voice-over): At age 13, Heather Cox became a vegetarian. That was four years ago.

HEATHER COX, VEGAN, 17: I always loved animals the whole time I was growing up. So I just kind of decided that it was something I wanted to do. I thought it would be a good thing for me and for the animals.

GUPTA: The American Dietetic Association notes almost 10 percent of American schoolchildren are vegetarians. Nutritionists say vegetarian diets high in antioxidants and low in fat can be healthy. But parents need to make sure their children stick to a balanced diet.

KATHERINE TALLMADGE, AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSN.: You really have to know what you're doing because you risk deficiencies which could impede their growth and development.

GUPTA: Dr. Jennifer Tender's children became vegetarians two years ago. They eat lots of soy and vegetables. And their mom made sure they got enough protein.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The main thing is just making sure the family sits together and talks about what a healthy balanced diet means.

GUPTA: The girls found sticking to a purely vegetarian diet was difficult.

ALYSSA TENDER, VEGETARIAN, 13: I didn't eat like tofu. So I felt like I was not getting enough protein.

GUPTA: Most protein comes from meat products. So vegetarians need to look for other sources, such as beans and soy products, like tofu and nuts.

TALLMADGE: A vegetarian can be at risk of certain vitamin deficiencies, iron, calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, which is only in animal products.

GUPTA: For that reason, young vegetarians should go to their doctor yearly to monitor their height and weight. Supplements may be needed to help avoid anemia and lack of muscle growth.


GUPTA: And you can read more about keeping yourself and your kids healthy and fit at We're committed to this.

Now stay where you are. A new report on just how clean your local beach might be when HOUSECALL returns.


GUPTA: Ah, looks pretty nice out there for tall hose out there sneaking in a last minute beach vacation. Just a warning, though. You know going to the beach could be dangerous, but it's not sharks. It's the water that could pose a threat. In fact, a new study found that beaches were closed a record number of days last year. Why? Due to contamination in the water. And swimming in contaminated water could cause stomachaches. It could cause things like skin rashes as well.

Well, unfortunately, we're out of time for today. Thanks for watching. Remember to tune in every weekend for another edition of HOUSECALL. Remember this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Have a good day. Stay tuned now for more news right here on CNN.