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Surviving Hurricanes; Sleep Deprivation; Survival at Sea

Aired September 14, 2008 - 08:30   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN, ANCHOR: We're also getting word this morning from President Bush in fact that he will be making a trip down to Texas on Tuesday on Tuesday to show his support and lend his support and show sympathy and support for those victims of this hurricane. Also coming up a little later this morning, we expect it, maybe within the next couple of hours a briefing from Houston Mayor Bill White and also other emergency management officials about what that city exactly went through. We did hear from them earlier that the storm was bad, but maybe they really dodged a bullet here in a lot of ways. Not a whole lot of injuries, not a lot of deaths either that they expect in that town. So, we will be monitoring it all for you. Right now, I do want to hand it over to Dr. Sanjay Gupta in "House Call." But we will be right here back at the top of the hour with more coverage of Hurricane Ike.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And welcome to "House Call." The show that helps you live longer and stronger. This morning we are talking about hurricanes. Again, people are being battered by hurricanes and the season is not even close to over. We're going to keep you safe during the storm.

And are you falling sleep deprived? If so, you're one of millions. Is a simple nap the answer? It might do more harm than good. You know what, this morning I'm going to help you get some sleep finally.

Then my favorite story of the week, a father and son struggling to survive after being swept out to sea. This story, though, has a special twist.

We start though with the hurricanes. While Ike strikes the coast, people in Louisiana are still dealing with Hurricane Gustav. Here's something probably you didn't think of. Cases of dangerous blood clots called DVT are surging. This from one major hospital in New Orleans who said they used to see 10 cases a week, now they're seeing six a day. The reason, in case you're wondering, all that time that people spent in cars, buses and trains during the evacuation and the subsequent reentry.

And here's something else, in places still struggling to regain power, carbon monoxide poisoning has become a real danger. In fact, in Baton Rouge, 21 people have already been hospitalized. CO2 poisoning happens when people don't know how to work or vent their generators and are overcome by this odorless and sometimes deadly gas.

Now, if you are caught in a bad storm, you know what you should and shouldn't do to stay safe. Well, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has tips that could save your life. Chad. CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, doctor, the first thing you do - we'll talk about the hurricane areas because obviously we have some big impact there. You need to listen to the officials. They are telling you things because they know what's what it's like behind other places, and places that you can't get to. You don't try to try to be arguing with those guys. They know what they're doing and they know why they're keeping you out of some place or telling you to evacuate or not or go back in. The next thing after a storm goes by is going to be a bunch of nails on the ground. That's the thing we have to worry about as much as when we're tracking these thing. Stay away from those areas where there's debris. And then, you know, I mean, you talk about all the things that could happen after a storm and cuts and bruises. And the thing you want do before a storm hits is something maybe like a tetanus shot, because if you're picking up a lot of broken stuff and probably even some rusty nails. Doc.

GUPTA: Yes. Chad, thanks so much for that. Good luck to all of you out there who may be cleaning up today. Here's another question, did you get enough sleep last night? If you're like many Americans, probably not. In fact, get this a recent survey in "Consumer Reports" says 44 percent of Americans are what are called problem sleepers. And I met one such woman Jolie Fainberg while shooting our documentary on sleep. What I realized is that her story can teach us all something. Take a look.


GUPTA (voice-over): It's 4:00 a.m., Jolie Fainberg wakes up and can't get back to sleep.


GUPTA: We have all been there, insomnia. But for some, like Jolie, it happens all the time. She is busy enough during the day to be tired. So why can't she sleep? Back then she and her husband Stan, both in their 40s, were raising two energetic toddlers. Jolie also works at Children's Health Care of Atlanta where she heads up a program that fits implants on children with severe hearing impairments.


FAINBERG: I want you to listen, and raise your hand and you listen. Do that.


FAINBERG: I leave the office, and sometimes I leave things undone. And I will often wake up in the middle of the night and realize, I didn't do that. Oh my gosh, I forgot to call them back. Oh, no.

GUPTA: Jolie is usually in bed by 10:30 and asleep around 11 but she had trouble staying asleep. We asked Jolie to videotape those moments when she wakes up and can't get back to sleep.

FAINBERG: I'm feeling a little anxious and wired up - UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This room right here.

GUPTA: To help her, we arranged for Jolie to undergo a sleep assessment with psychologist Russell Rosenberg. One suggestion, write down her worries and how she plans to deal with them.

RUSSELL ROSENBERG, PSYCHOLOGIST: So you don't have that in the middle of the night, my gosh, I forgot to do something.

GUPTA: He also says Jolie should make a list at night of all she has to do in the next two days.

FAINBERG: Now, I don't think about them as much.

GUPTA: Rosenberg told Jolie to do more invigorating workouts like weight lifting earlier in the day, but continue more relaxing exercises like stretching at night. For Jolie, those changes are already making a difference.


GUPTA: You know, and we stayed in touch with Jolie. She said the behavior she learned during those sessions are still helping her today. So some good news. For some problem sleepers changing bedtime routines do help, but what about just taking a nap? It's a question I get all the time. Is that a potential solution to America's sleep deficit? Well, readers on CNN's Health Page think it might be. They voted napping as the number one topic for this week's show. Let's turn to our guest, sleep specialist, Dr. David Schulman. He's director of the Sleep Lab in Emory. You're back for an encore.


GUPTA: Popular topic. People are talking about this all the time. What we do is we recruit questions from our viewers out there. Man on the street questions we call them. Let's see what they say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I take a nap like every afternoon, and I was wondering if it was good for me?


GUPTA: First of all, she is pretty lucky to take a nap every afternoon.

SCHULMAN: I need that job.

GUPTA: Not reflective of most Americans I think. What about that though?

SCHULMAN: I think it's a good idea to take a nap in the afternoon particularly if it helps you to recoup sleep that you are not getting at night routinely. If you're getting six hours at night and you are get 30 to 60 minutes during the day, that's super. That gives you seven hours during the day. And that's probably close to what you need. If you are sleeping eight to nine hours a night and you're still requiring a nap during the day, that suggests that something is wrong. You might want to see a doctor about that.

GUPTA: Let's delve into that a little bit. Because people are very curious about their naps. We had another question from someone out there on the street. Take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a crazy sleep schedule where I split my sleep up. I take three hours in the afternoon and then three hours at night. What's that going to do to my health long-term?


GUPTA: You know, I have been sort of curious about that as well because you know, people say eight hours, seven hours, but splitting it up like that, problem?

SCHULMAN: This is a particularly tough question. Certainly it's better to get a total amount of sleep close to seven hours. And this gentleman is doing that. Whether it's better to get six hours consolidated or three and three, certainly it makes sense to get six hours consolidated, but three and three is actually pretty good. Some studies have shown that that's almost as good. The only concern I would have for this gentleman in particular is he might be throwing his Circadian rhythm off, that governs just more than your sleeping. It governs a lot of endocrine function, GI function, cardiovascular function. So in the long run, I don't know for sure that it's a bad idea, but I would rather he get it consolidated if at all possible.

GUPTA: Can you explain in brief, you have these different stages of sleep. Which is the best stage? Which is the most restorative for you overall?

SCHULMAN: Well, I don't necessarily there's a reliable answer to that question. Most folks talk about slow wave sleep as being the most restorative. We tend to get most slow wave sleep when we're younger, and we get a little bit less as we get older and older. That said, even less deep forms of sleep provide some restorative function.

GUPTA: I think we have time for one more question from the street. Let's see if we can listen to that one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is on sleep, what would be the best nonprescription sleep product on the market?


GUPTA: People love their sleeping pills. She's asking about nonprescription, because there's a lot of prescription ones out there. Is there anything you recommend? SCHULMAN: This is tough question, because the answer is it really depends on why she is needing a sleep medication. In terms of commonly used medications, the two used nonprescription are probably Benadryl and Melitonin. Benadryl is pretty effective as a mild sedative. It is a little risky in folks as they get older. It can cause some confusional problems. Melatonin is pretty benign, probably most effective for people with Circadian kinds of problems. They, you know, wanted to sleep late. They tend to want to want -

GUPTA: Traveling coast to coast.

SCHULMAN: So I think if this person in particular is requiring regular medication, that really requires evaluation before recommending anything even a nonprescription medication regularly.

GUPTA: And certainly, the prescription medications, I mean, how long is OK for someone to be on one of those?

SCHULMAN: Most of the products out there are to be used for one month, maybe a couple. But there's one in particular that has been approved for long term use but as a physician who provides care to these folks, long term use of any of these medications really require supervision by a doctor. Generally, these problems should be worked up to make sure it's not masking something else.

GUPTA: You always teach me something else when you're here.

SCHULMAN: I appreciate that.

GUPTA: And it helps me because sleep is something that everyone is concerned about. I appreciate it. Thanks very much. Dr. Schulman from the Emory Clinic. Thank you very much for being with us.

Coming up next -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then the jellyfish came out. That's what really started to freak him out.

GUPTA: It was a 14-hour nightmare at sea and the special circumstances that made his survival unthinkably difficult.

And later in the show, you know you need water to survive, but could too much of a good thing be deadly? Stay with "House Call."


GUPTA: You're watching "House Call." A father and son stranded at sea treading water for hours. Learn why a Disney movie played a major role in their amazing survival.

Plus, you may believe in the power of prayer, but what if your doctor doesn't? Integrating your faith with your health care. And these feisty seniors are proving when it comes to fitness, carrying a cane is anything but a crutch. We'll tell you what we mean. "House Call" is back in 60 seconds.


GUPTA: We're back with "House Call." An amazing story, a 12-year-old boy dragged out to sea by swift currents. His father tries to reach him but also gets swept away. Watch this.


GUPTA (voice-over): They were doing their favorite thing in the world - swimming together at the beach. 40-year-old Walter Marino and his son, 13-year-old Christopher. But you see Christopher drifted far, too far, miles out into the ocean. His father struggling to keep up with him, treading water in six-foot waves. Night fell, dehydration set in. And on top of all that, Christopher has autism.

WALTER MARINO, RESCUED AFTER HOURS IN OCEAN: These kids know no danger, in lot of many ways. And he was on an adventure, he was on the swim. Then the jellyfish came out and stung him. And when the jellyfish came out and stung, that's what really started to freak him out.

GUPTA: Father and son drifted apart. Walter's only goal, communicate with Christopher and keep him calm. It is fascinating to hear.

GUPTA (on-camera): How are you communicating with your son, Christopher?

MARINO: He watches a lot of videos, and we would - we have a repertoire of about three dozen or so phrases that we use. And I say the first half of the phrase and he completes it. Like, for example, Christopher - Christopher, can you say to infinity and beyond! And we were doing that all night long. That's what kept my spirits up.

GUPTA: You can only imagine father and son shouting Disney phrases back and forth in the middle of the ocean. Fighting for their lives.

MARINO: We were getting pulled apart. And I was screaming, you know, to infinity -- and I wouldn't hear "and beyond" back from him, so I thought I lost him at that point.

The Coast Guard rocks.

GUPTA: Finally after an entire night at sea, the father is found. Yes, the Coast Guard.

SENIOR CHIEF NEWMAN CANTRELL, U.S. COAST GUARD: You know, one thing that's really amazing is that, you know, for basically 15 hours, 16 hours now you've had a 40-year-old man and a 13-year-old boy treading water. You know, I just got to a lot to their willingness to survive.

GUPTA: When Christopher was rescued two hours after his father, he uttered only one word - cold. But no one may ever know what exactly Christopher was thinking during all those terrifying hours.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: I tell you it's so good to see Walter and Christopher doing so well. Good luck to them. Here's a question for you, how much water should you be drinking? Could you drink too much? That's a good question. We're going to have the answer in our "Ask the Doctor" segment. And later in the show seniors using their canes as fitness equipment. You got to see this.

Plus can God save you when medical science can't? We'll have the answers coming up. Stay with "House Call."


GUPTA: And we are back with "House Call." It's time for our segment, it's all about you. It's called "Ask the Doctor." You get to ask us some questions. So we dipped into our medical mailbag to find out what's on your minds. And Jane from Illinois writes this. "I'm a 43- year-old female and I drink almost two gallons of water during every day. Is it OK or it is bad for my health."

Well, Jane there are no easy answers here, but I got to tell you that does seem like an awful lot. How much water a person needs depends on several factors, your health, how active you are and your own environment. Here's a standard rule of thumb, drink around 64 ounces of water a day and you can certainly drink more than that, however it is possible to consume too much.

Over hydration, not something people talk about often, but it can lead to hyponatremia. That means the blood has too much water and too little sodium or salt. It's a rare condition but it can be deadly. So please be careful, Jane. Here's another piece of advice as well, if you are drinking water every few minutes, you are probably drinking too much.

Now, onto another question. Jennifer in Georgia writes this - "our 17-month-old son was recently given peanut butter during snack time and had a severe allergic reaction. How common are peanut allergies? What causes them and what steps can we take to ensure we that avoid peanuts?"

Well, Jennifer, peanut allergies are quite common and they often happen in the first few years of a child's life. I think about this all the time with two small children. For some reason your body's immune system especially at that age identifies in this case, the peanut protein as harmful. When you eat your body attacks it causing the allergic response. Now to avoid the trouble, the experts recommend reading food labels carefully. You have to do this. And inform the key people in your child's life about the allergy and discourage your child from sharing foods at school. And finally, this is probably the most life-saving advice of all, carry epinephrine at all times. Hope that helps you. And hope your 17-month old is doing well.

Remember to e-mail me your questions, Hopefully they'll end up here on the show. And make sure to check out a special feature that we put on the blog this month. September is ovarian cancer awareness month. And this silent disease strikes 20,000 women every year. This year it struck one of our own, Karen Bonsignore, a CNN producer will be blogging about her experiences every Friday on the health page. Click over, share your stories with us and share them with her as well.

Coming up though, training seniors to be fit with a cane. A new exercise trend you have to see. And praying for your health. Doctors in hospitals are taking on new roles in faith healing. We'll have it next on "House Call."


GUPTA: Here's a question, do you believe a higher power can save a life when doctors cannot? If so your doctor may disagree with you on this. Elizabeth Cohen is here to talk about the faith gap between doctors and patients. You actually tried to recruit e-mails from people out there talking about this very issue. What were you hearing?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We did, Sanjay. We said send us an e-mail if you think that god or a higher power intervened and saved someone you know when doctors said the situation was futile. And boy, oh boy did we get e-mails. Lots of stories from people about how that happened to them.

Take a look at this little boy. His name is Christopher Gorman. When he was born shortly just when he was a day or two old he developed fungal meningitis, a terrible brain infection. And his mother, Pamela, said doctors told her to prepare for the worst. They thought her son was going to die. And Sanjay she prayed and prayed. Her son recovered. He is turning three next month. And she said he is doing terrific and she said what bothers her so much was that the doctors made her feel silly for praying. They said, you know, they were - they are people of science, and they said all the tests and everything showed he was not doing well. And she said she was made to feel silly and she felt that was unfortunate.

GUPTA: Was that a common theme?

COHEN: Yes, it was interesting is there's actually been studies that show that there's a gap between doctors and patients when it comes to faith. The most recent study was published last month in a journal called "Archives of Surgery." And what they found is that when they said to patients do you think that god can do a miracle and save someone who has - who is in a situation where doctors say it's futile? And 57 percent of patients said yes, god can intervene, only 20 percent of doctors felt the same way. So more patients than doctors felt that god could save someone when the situation was dire.

GUPTA: Yes. Even 20 percent seems high, I would guess. So what do you do, I mean, if you're a patient and there's a religious conflict, or faith conflict, whatever you want to call it, what should a patient do?

COHEN: Well one of the things you can do is when you set out to find a doctor, if faith is important to you, it is acceptable to try to find a doctor who shares your faith or who at least shares a faith that god can do miracles. So you can say to a doctor, you have to say it carefully, but you can say faith is important to me, I believe that miracles can happen. I want to find a doctor like that. If you're not that doctor, can you refer me to somebody else.

GUPTA: Right. I think that's good advice. And some doctors even sit down and pray with their patients as well.

COHEN: Yes, some doctors will when asked. Many doctors will pray with a patient when asked.

GUPTA: Hopefully they get good medical treatment first and pray as well.

COHEN: And do the two of them together. That's right.

GUPTA: Always good stuff, Elizabeth. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

GUPTA: You can read the rest of Elizabeth's tips on how to talk to your doctor about god. It's on our website, Every week she brings you new ways to get the most out of your health care.

Now, coming up, it's the latest fitness trend for seniors. Everyone it turns out is cane fu fighting. Grab a stick. We'll show you how it's done.


GUPTA: That may be my favorite bump-in of all times. Believe it or not. You are watching "House Call." Exercising as you get older can be a challenge. Our bones shrink, we lose muscle mass and some of us end up using a cane for mobility. That's no excuse not to exercise. One unconventional fitness program is helping seniors turn those canes into an aggressive fitness tool.


GUPTA: It may not look like it, but what you're watching is part of a new fitness trend. Violent, yes. But it's all in the name of exercise, for seniors. Cane fu fighting, elderly folks using their canes to stay in shape.

MARK SHUEY, CANE MASTER: Most of them think the canes are a crutch. And they don't want to be seen with a cane.

GUPTA: Black belt and cane fu grand master Mark Shuey wants to change all that. Popularity for his classes have skyrocketed in recent years. Vital, some experts say because with every increasing decade of age people, become less and less active. He shows them how to stretch, exercise and how to stop people from messing with granny.

SHUEY: I teach them how to poke them on the foot as well as hit them in the head. But the problem is when you hit them in the head you'll probably kill them. I teach them how to break a rib, the hands. But anywhere you hit a cane on the body, it's going to ill hurt.

GUPTA: The moves are simple and they're swift.

SHUEY: Feel the difference you have in power?

GUPTA: That's the cane jab. Here's the raking motion.

SHUEY: If I grab this here -

GUPTA: The arm hook maneuver.


GUPTA: Now, more men are attracted to cane fu than women. And the typical student? Anyone with a cane, usually in their 60s to 90s. And it is more than just exercise.

PEGGY LEARBOWERN, CANE FUN STUDENT: I would definitely use my skills against someone. I have more options to preserve my life.


SHUEY: OK. I get people to tell me they love to go walk in the park and not feel like they're a target.


GUPTA: So you saw it first here on "House Call." Well, unfortunately, that's all the time that we have for today. If you missed any part of today's show, check out my podcast on And remember, "House Call" is the place to all your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. More news on CNN starts right now.