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Senate Passes Health Care Bill

Aired December 27, 2009 - 07:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Welcome to house call. A show that helps you grows longer and stronger.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thank you so much for watching. Happy Holidays everybody. Big, big week for health care. I'm sure you know by now. We are 100 percent dedicated to this issue. We have a lot to share with you and this morning as well and this morning, I want to bring you some wonderful stories. Some people who are doing extraordinary things in their own way to address health care. I hope this holiday weekend, you'll going to be inspired like I have been. You are watching house call.

We begin, though, with health care reform in a big, big vote on Capitol Hill. The senate finally passed its version of the health care reform bill this week. It is known as the patient protection and affordable care act. Next, the differences between the house and the senate bills are going to be worked out in conference before Congress votes again. There are a lot of differences. One of the biggest ones between the two bills is that the house includes a government-run public option. The senate bill does not. That is one of the issues that need to be resolved. Again, there are many of them and a final version is not expected until after the New Year. We'll going to keep you informed on all the developments here on house call.

If you want more right now, take a look at the paging Dr, about the blog. I have read this bill. I talked to expert all over the country. And again, watch the show and I want you to join me there for a conversation. There's no question, this bill is going to affect everyone, whether you have always been healthy or dealt with chronic illness, what is happening right now in health care is going to affect you. One person that knows this firsthand is Lance Armstrong. He is a champion cyclist, as you know, and a cancer survivor. Because of my strong personal interesting cancer, I sat on the board of his organization called "Live Strong." I spoke with him about what reform could mean in the fight against cancer.

So, Lance, what did you hear about the bill and what are some of your first thoughts when you hear that this coming to a vote?

LANCE ARMSTRONG, LIVESTRONG.COM: Well, I mean, we have been, when I say we, I mean everybody at the foundation at "Live Strong" have been supportive of some kind of reform here. We have asked members of the senate, you know, to vote in favor of this, mainly as a cancer organization for the things that it can do for people dealing with this disease or certainly their family members or anybody affected by cancer. So, I think it includes some important things for us as a cancer organization as well as other organizations like the American Cancer Society and Komen and the other great groups out there. But we have been following it closely I think, is safe to say.

GUPTA: Do you think, you know, you have been talking about it, I read your tweets often, but since the campaign, almost fast forward to now, a lot of different versions of what could happen have been proposed. Do you think this goes far enough?

ARMSTRONG: Well, it's definitely been a marathon, so to speak. And I think that compromise in these situations is always tough. And status quo is not always acceptable, but I mean, I think for us, but again, I try to come at this just from the perspective of somebody that dealt with this disease years ago and faced a lot of the questions that people I know people still face today, perhaps even more so. And, you know, from our perspective and from mine as a survivor, I think this is a significant step forward.

GUPTA: One thing that you have talked about is that your relationship with Senator Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and, obviously, this was his issue, as you well know. You spent a lot of time with him. Do you think things would have been different if he were still alive today? He died, obviously, of brain cancer.

ARMSTRONG: Yes. I mean, you know, I did have a handful of really great opportunities with the senator. And I saw it from both sides. I knew that the health care situation and health care reform was really his baby and that was something that he was so deeply passionate about, but I'll never forget the first time I went to meet with him on my issue. I quickly realized it was also his issue through the family connection of dealing with cancer and then later on probably a decade later then, you know, him unfortunately being diagnosed. And I mean, I would love to have been a fly on the wall and, you know, back a year ago with Barack Obama running for president and working with Ted Kennedy.

I mean, I think that there was strong connection there, a strong bond, strong passion toward this kind of reform, especially with regards to cancer. But, you know, Senator Kennedy was somebody that was, you know, perhaps polarizing at times, but I think at the end of the day he really knew how to bring people together from both sides of the aisle and kind of a master when it came to that. So, it is hard to think that it would have been different. I think he would have had an effect on the work that we did together trying to reform our approach to cancer in the United States, pretty incredible. I still never forget it.

GUPTA: And that is Lance Armstrong, as you can see, continuing his advocacy for health care reform and his advocacy on behalf of the cancer community. I hope to turn to him often. This holiday season as well. I want to pose a question to you at home. What would you be willing to do to give someone you didn't even know a healthy life? For more than a dozen people, the answer was giving up a kidney to a total stranger. A 13-way swaps offering these people a new lease on life.


GUPTA (voice-over): Renee Patterson is looking forward to Christmas. And although there will be plenty of boxes under the tree, the most precious present for Paterson this year isn't something from a store. This week she was given the gift of life.

RENEE PATTERSON, KIDNEY RECIPIENT: I told people I'm getting my kidney, and I've told them how I am getting it, the first thing out of their mouth is wow.

GUPTA: Nine years ago Renee learned she was suffering from kidney disease. Her kidney eventually began to deteriorate. Because she couldn't find a family match, her colleague Michael Williams said he would donate his own kidney. The problem was Renee and Michael didn't match either, but Renee's doctor knew of a donor recipient, pair kidney donation program at Washington Hospital Center, so she and Michael put themselves on the list.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS, KIDNEY DONOR: It was kind of jumping out there on faith and long beholds it is working out for her.

GUPTA: Across town in Washington, d.c., businesswoman Leslie Wolfe was in a similar situation, she was willing to give a kidney to her best friend's husband towards pluck, but they didn't match. Leslie along with Stewart put herself on a similar list at Georgetown University Hospital.

LESLIE WOLFE, KIDNEY DONOR: If you can do something that is not life-threatening to you that will save someone else's life, why would you say no?

GUPTA: So, earlier this December in an effort to help more patients receive kidney transplants, doctors in Georgetown University Hospital Center decided to meld their list together coming up with a 13-way, 26-patient match that would take six days to complete performing at least two to three operations a day.

DR. JOSEPH MELANCON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: All of the recipients had donors that they didn't match with and they had to receive a transplant via a paired kidney exchange.

Renee, Michael, Leslie and Stewart were part of that 26. And Renee would get Leslie's kidney. On the last day of the operation, Leslie's kidney was removed, cleaned and ready to be transported to Washington Hospital Center where Renee's doctors were waiting to implant the kidney. Stewart already had already received his transplant and Michael's kidney was removed the same day that Renee received hers. By cris-crossing patients, 13 people were able to renew their lives and 11 of them were minorities. Doctors say more minorities need to join these exchange programs.

MELANCON: It is very important for minorities to be able to receive living transplants because their outcomes with the sea storms transplants are not as good as everyone else.

GUPTA: As soon as Renee recuperated, she and Leslie plan to meet. Renee realizes the sacrifice Leslie has made for her, and she also realizes this would have never happened without her best friend by her side.

WOLFE: He's saving my life because I wouldn't be in this circle. At the same time, he is saving somebody else's life.


GUPTA: An extraordinary gift for sure. Keep in mind those doctors hope the matches will not be rejected, these kidneys. Many people who do receive kidney transplants go on to live happy and healthy lives. Still curious, more, log on to

Up next, we have a hero comes knocking on your door with the tools that could save your lives. Find out what happened to this woman that changes her life forever. You're watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: We are back with house call talking about real-life solutions this morning to this health care crisis that is dominating the news this week. Uninsured women are less likely to get annual mammograms and that puts them at a greater risk for breast cancer. There's an incredible woman out there fighting better those off for all women, and she is doing it by hitting the streets.

ANDREA IVORY, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR: In 2004, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Officially, there's shock. But I realized how blessed that was to have health insurance. It made me think about all the women who didn't have health insurance. I wanted to make a difference in their lives.

I'm Andrea Ivory and I'm fighting breast cancer in south Florida one household at a time. The Florida breast health organization is an outreach organization, we're targeting working-class people who are going to make a difference and save lives. We have a take it to the streets approach. We feel like little pixies spreading breast cancer awareness. We target women that are 35-years or older and make appointments on the spot for a free mammogram. I look guard to seeing you. I will be there. Bringing the mobile mammography into the neighborhood is one of the most important fascinating things of the work that we do. We provide a service that is so needed. I know I'm saving lives.

It was free so come right over and get it.

Is the lady of the house at home?

We are giving free mammograms until 25th. That's easy. Thank you so much. Take care. I was saved from breast cancer to save other women. Every time I knock on the door is another opportunity to save a life.

GUPTA: It's a delight to be able to tell her story. And we are going to keep the theme going here. The next story is about a nurse practitioner and mother of six who serves a growing number of uninsured Americans as well. Take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I have been completely denied all insurances.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I have been unemployed and basically have no income.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And they told me, I had breast cancer, and I denied every insurance, so I came here.

FAITH COLEMAN, CANCER SURVIVOR: If they have no insurance, and they have no money, what's going to happen to them? In 2003, I discovered that I had kidney cancer. I'm a nurse practitioner, but I had no health insurance. I was able to mortgage my house to pay for the surgery. If it can happen to me, then certainly, it can happen to anybody.

I'm Faith Coleman and I co-founded a free clinic for American who doesn't have health insurance.

Good morning, everybody. We welcome every patient here who is uninsured and who needs the federal poverty guidelines.

I'm Faith. Nice to meet you.

We are seeing patients every other weekend. We have what I call controlled chaos. It is just busy, busy, busy. Go, go, go. Having kidney cancer was one of the best things that ever happened to me. The one main reason is because I can truly empathize with patients. Any questions at all? Nothing from you? OK, I'll see you back here in two weeks. OK. Awesome. Oh, I'm so proud of you! We all have the same rights. I'm sorry, the right to health care is just right up there with the rest of them.

GUPTA: That's some amazing work, Faith. And a couple of stories that people are doing extraordinary thing. We have more of that throughout the show.

You know, as you spend time with your family over the holidays, all the holiday cheer could actually be doing some damage as well. I want you to be protected, I want you to be safe, I want you to be healthy. I'm going to tell you how and discover what makes this salad place so different from the location to its owner. It is one-of-a- kind. You're watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: We are back with house call. There is something you didn't know. Heart attacks claim the lives of more people on Christmas Day than any other day of the year. The day after Christmas is next and New Year's Day is the day after that. There's something about the holidays and heart attacks about the different theories on this. But some believe people are less likely to go see doctors during the holiday season. They are more likely to blow off their symptoms not wanting to bother people. Perhaps to be the hospitals are less well staffed during that time as well, making it harder to actually get care, but there are so many things that are happening during the holidays to your heart. Stress is one thing. It increases inflammation of the body. The cold can cause blood vessels to constrict as well. All that travel, all that food, even places like fireplaces that are releasing over carbon monoxide usually not a problem at all.

But with someone with heart disease, someone with lung disease, it can be a little bit more of a problem. Any of these things in isolation, you wouldn't really worry about, but together they can cause exactly what we are talking about. I want to give you a few tips, some things to keep in mind that you're thinking about the holidays. Stay alert to what your body is telling you. Make sure not to blow off symptoms, even if it is the holidays. Take your medications if you are traveling around the country, around the world. Minimize alcohol consumption. If you drink, fine, keep it under control certainly, if you have a history in particular, and make sure your family access your advocates. Keep them informed. Especially if you are having any particular problem.

We want you to stay healthy especially this holiday season. And speaking of getting healthy, here is something, I am pretty excited about. It is called the fit nation Triathlon challenge. The theme is lose for life. We are looking for five people who were ready to make a change. You have to commit to this, to our six-month challenge. And you can be in the New York City Triathlon. Do it with me. I will be right there with you. For more information, log on to

I promised you some more heroes throughout the show and the next one hails from Harlem. Here's the problem. Milo Meed. A shortage of healthful food where he lived in New York City. He tried for years to get businesses to change, finally he decided to take matters into his own hands. Take a look.

MILO MEED, OWNER, ISLAND SALAD: It doesn't make sense. We only have one food stand on 125th Street. It doesn't make any sense that there is a farmer's market only going on in the summertime. Hey, how you doing, boss? We have organic sesame ginger. This is what Harlem deserves. A lot of people are questioning, why are you opening a salad bar? Are you in the business of losing money?

And I said, it has to be more than just about making money. The 11-year-old kid, I was playing on a park on the 125th Street just probably 20 pounds overweight and the 11-year old playing in the -- Street. See, I want you to live a little bit on the edge, and I will put in some corn. A lot of the product is fresh. We make fresh stuff. (INAUDIBLE). Cheese, eggs, cucumber.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Over here is really -- there are only three or four big time fashion restaurants.

MEED: I have regular people that hangout in the street and tell me, Milo, that was a great salad I had.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I don't know what you put in it but it was great. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I saw the words, you know, organic and salad goes up and I thought things would be changing. This is getting really exciting because we don't have any places to eat that are fresh.

MEED: I could make up something nice.

And people in Harlem, in South L.A., in New York, Baltimore, all of those areas, they deserve a healthy option. I am going to show people that healthy options do work in our home.

GUPTA: Trying to get some healthy food that people who need it the most that have not had access for sometime. Congratulations, Milo.

And coming up, my favorite part of the show, ask the doctor. I will be going to answer your questions.

Also, what you are looking at a faces of the often forgotten children of Iraq. And then later, how one man is changing their world in an incredible way. Stay with house call.


GUPTA: It's time for my favorite segment of the show. Ask the doctor. Let's get right through it. Question from Wendy in Massachusetts writes this.

"I had meningitis one year ago. I would like to get back in shape as soon as possible, but when I exercise, I often feel ill and exhausted for days. Would it be better for my healing process to just take it easy, or push ahead and ignore not feeling well?"

Well, first of all, Wendy, it's great to hear that you beat your meningitis and now you have the desire to get back in shape. It is true that sometimes meningitis can cause endocrine disorders like the often make you quite tired. But it's actually quite like this way. You are probably getting fatigued when you exercise because you may not have fully recovered your endurance yet. It takes time. Try to gradually increase your exercise routine, remember gradually here, that's the key word, and you are not going to be back to your old self right away. The acute phase of meningitis only lasts a couple of weeks, fever breaks and the neurological symptoms, it is probably OK to start exercising, yet in fact, most doctors are going to recommend it. Good luck.

As U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq, one man has decided to stay behind, find out why when we come back.


GUPTA: We are back with house call. When civilian contractor Brad Blauser went to Iraq to boost morale among American troops, he knew nothing of the one in seven Iraqi children currently living with disability. As U.S. troops withdraw to Iraq, he has decided to stay, to offer hope to hundreds of desperate children in their family as well. It is health care in Iraq. Take a look.


BRAD BLAUSER, U.S. CONTRACTOR IN IRAQ: Iraq is a country that spends through some tremendous struggles and being in the city on your own is taking your life in your own hands. I have been told if I went out alone I would last three hours. Unfortunately, it's a situation where a lot of people, adults and children are caught in the cross fire. I had no idea I would end up in the middle of a war zone giving out pediatric wheelchairs children to those that had no way of getting them. When we go out on the missions, I know sometimes my life is on the line because I am willing to take the risk because of the lives of the children mean so much. There is hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq who need these. When I do this, it's going to change the life of a child. I have become the source and the supply of children's wheelchairs, but even more so the source and supply of hope.

One right here? A lot of times the children have not slept the night before because they know they are going to get a child's wheelchair for the first time. They have seen them. They have wished for one. And now they are going to get one.

Give her a little bit of tilt.

You can take her out to the market, you can take her anywhere with you. Does she lay back in it good?

I never really have come to a point of just wanting to walk away. How can I leave? I have become their voice. Back in 2006, we did our first wheelchair distribution in the Sinjar Province. Right as the wheelchair distribution began we saw somebody coming over the hill and he was coming in our direction. Some soldiers looked and saw that he had a child that he was carrying, an older boy. As the soldiers ran to take the child from his arms, he pulled back and said no, I carried my boy all his life. I can carry him the last 100 meters so I can give him his wheelchair.


GUPTA: Work on the other side of the world there. We hope you enjoyed meeting Brad Blauser and all of our heroes today. Just some incredible stories. And if you missed any part of today show, be sure to check out my podcast, Remember this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions. Thank you for watching. I am Dr. Sanjay Gupta. More news on CNN starts right now.