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Inside Giffords' Rehab Facility; Vickers' NASCAR Comeback; CNN Reporter Delivers His Own Baby

Aired February 19, 2011 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Thanks for joining us. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

We've got some high drama to start off things today. Take a listen to this.


911 OPERATOR: OK. I have her push hard and get the baby out, OK?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Push hard and get the baby out. Push hard, push hard. Oh, my God, I'm holding my baby.


GUPTA: Imagine you're having a baby and there's no doctor, no nurse, no midwife. Would you know what to do? We'll talk to someone who was in that situation.

Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman, shot in the head on January 8th, alive, but now in Houston -- where doctors are trying to make her whole. The therapy is aggressive. But how exactly does it all work? We got a firsthand glimpse.

And now, picture this -- you're racing cars at 200 miles an hour and you find yourself vulnerable in a way that you never even imagined. One of NASCAR's young driver shares a very personal story.

Let's get started.


GUPTA: Ever since she was critically wounded in early January, shot in the head by a would-be assassin, we have been watching very closely the remarkable recovery of Gabrielle Giffords. Within days, she was alert to the people around her and then she said her first words, asking for toast. And we hear now that she's speaking more every single day, even singing a little bit.

We've been told that she had an intense grueling rehab regimen. And it got me thinking, what is that really like to go through? I went to find out. Take a look.


GUPTA (voice-over): For an hour every day, Congressman Giffords does this.

(on camera): So, you're going to sing it. And If I mouth it, maybe you can do that and you can tell what that means.

(singing): Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.

MAEGAN MORROW, MUSIC THERAPIST: Good. Sometimes, I come in and that's all they can do.

GUPTA: And that's significant?

MORROW: That's significant because it gives me a clue, hey, they know this song and they want to fill it in.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's called music therapy. Most people never see how it or much of the technology, big or small in this building, actually works.

So, I will show you. As if I, like Congresswoman Giffords, were a patient of Dr. Francisco and his team.

(on camera): It seems like a pretty long day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a long day.

GUPTA (voice-over): Every patient has suffered a catastrophic injury and gets tailored therapy for an average of 28 days. With the brain site is crucial.

DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: We all know we're talking the left side here. We all know we're talking about potential injury to speech, potential injury to right side's strength or sensation.

DR. GERARD FRANCISCO, TIRR: After a brain injury or a stroke, there is a tendency for the patient to forget one side of the body.

GUPTA (on camera): Just neglect it?

FRANCISCO: Just neglect it, or even if they're not neglecting it, they're not using the weak side. They tend to forget how to use it.

GUPTA (voice-over): But this bike doesn't let you forget.


GUPTA (on camera): Yes.


GUPTA: Sure, if you want to.

These little cords here are actually attached to the muscles in my leg, and as my leg is moving, it's sort of predicting which muscle should be using and it's giving that muscle stimulations.

(voice-over): The brain usually sends a message to the muscle. But now, the muscle is also sending its own signal that helps rewire the injured brain.

This one, they call it the "Superman" device -- learning to walk without the burden of my body weight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirty percent of your body weight has been taken out.

GUPTA (on camera): This is really for somebody who has been bedridden for a long time, maybe taking their first steps to somebody who has weakness, weakness one limb or the other and really needs to start walking for the first time.

(voice-over): Surprisingly, the shopping cart is also used as part of therapy.

(on camera): Take a look here, obviously, Julie helping, for example, if I had right leg weakness, really sort of moving my leg along, preventing me from falling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can help again as little or as much as needed to. So, let's say you needed help to step through and I can come all the way and help you step through every single time.

GUPTA: It's great.

It's kind of remarkable to see like this sophisticated technology and cost $70,000, next to a shopping cart in the same room. What does a shopping cart, what does that type of therapy do for somebody?

FRANCISCO: You go shopping? So, when you're with a shopping cart, you lean forward or do you stand more up?

GUPTA: I try and stand-up. Right. Yes.

FRANCISCO: Good. And I think that's what happened, as opposed to training with a walker. Many people who are weak to begin with have a tendency to depend on the walker.

GUPTA: They're kind of leaning over.

FRANCISCO: They're leaning over. Whereas with the shopping cart, there's no way to lean forward.

GUPTA: This is pretty labor intensive.


SHAP SHADRAVAN, SPEECH THERAPIST: OK, you said Len. It's pen. Use your lips.

GUPTA (voice-over): Now, remember, with Congresswoman Giffords, speech is also a concern.

(on camera): We've heard a lot about Congresswoman Giffords recently, but she started talking asking for toast, for example. How significant is that in your world, in speech therapy world, that she starts asking for things on her own?

SHADRAVAN: It's huge. That's one of your first goals is for somebody to be able to express their basic wants and needs.

GUPTA (voice-over): But here's the thing, all these different therapies work together. Remember music therapy?

MORROW: I'm going to go lean two three four push up two three four.

GUPTA: The music isn't just rehabilitating the mind. It's also teaching patients to walk and sometimes

MORROW: And I'll give them a song to kind of get their mind off the pain.

(SINGING) -- that kind of thing like that.


GUPTA: Such intensive therapy there for the congresswoman and a little of a glimpse there of how it works. We'll, of course, keep checking in on her.

Now, for all you expectant dads out there, are you ready to deliver your own baby?


LEVS: It's choking, it's choking the cord. Breathe baby breathe.


GUPTA: It's amazing. We're going to bring you one dad's story. It's high drama as we said.

And at 26, he's already a NASCAR star. Is Brian Vickers healthy enough to race? We got that story as well for you. That's next.


GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD.

You know, NASCAR's biggest event of the year is here, that's Daytona 500. You know, I got a little taste of what it's like to be in one of these cars when I taped a special a few years ago. I can tell you, it's pretty tough. It gets pretty hot in there and you're zooming around the track as fast as you can.

Keep in mind: NASCAR drivers sit in these conditions for hours on end during a race.

And this weekend, one of the sports young guns is making an incredible comeback after recovering from what was a life-threatening illness.

Here's the story.


GUPTA (voice-over): Brian Vickers fell in love with racing at the age of 8. By age 20, Vickers had driven his way into the record books, not only becoming the youngest nationwide series champion in NASCAR history, but also starting in the Super Bowl of stock car racing, the Daytona 500. But a mere six years later, Vickers racing career came to an abrupt halt.

BRIAN VICKERS, RACE CAR DRIVER: I was having some tingling and some numbness, and sort of color in my hand. And then I started becoming short of breath.

GUPTA: Suddenly, the 26-year-old was in the race of his life.

VICKERS: And I had a clot in my left leg. I had a pulmonary embolism in both lungs. And then I had a clot in my left hand.

GUPTA: Vickers was also diagnosed with May-Thurner syndrome, a condition where a vein in the pelvic area is compressed, increasing the risk of blood clots.

A battery of tests found something else: a hole in his heart. It was the perfect storm. A hole in his heart, the May-Thurner syndrome, and the cramped quarters of his car for hours on end. His health was at stake, and so was his career.

VICKERS: There were times it came along where it didn't look too good. It didn't look like I was going to ever race again.

GUPTA: Vickers had as heart surgery and he was put on blood thinners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back, man.

GUPTA: Now, eight months later, he's clot-free. There's a stint in his left leg, keeping the vein open. But his doctors have cleared him to race.

Vickers said he made one of the most difficult decisions of his life, to get back in his car.

ANNOUNCER: And we see 83 out there, Brian Vickers. Glad to have him back.

GUPTA: Back on the track, he's about to race in his eighth Daytona 500.

VICKERS: You can't give up. You've just got to keep digging and you got to find your own path.


GUPTA: We can tell you, Brian Vickers is doing very well nowadays. He has to take blood thinner medications to keep those clots from forming. And there are potential risks in these medications, especially if you were to crash or be in some other type of accidents. He would bleed more than usual.

But he is doing great and we wish him a lot of luck.

Next up, a CNN reporter is alone with his pregnant wife when the baby decides it's time. See how he responded to this emergency.

We got that next on SGMD.


GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD.

You know, every week on this program, we're going to be taking you into the lives of some pretty fascinating people. They could be scientists, medical innovators, celebrities. Today, we're talking to someone who's three, quite literally.


GUPTA: My colleague Josh Levs had the experience of a lifetime.


GUPTA: Thanks for joining us, first of all.

LEVS: You got it.

GUPTA: It's amazing. You delivered your own baby?

LEVS: Yes.

GUPTA: This happened at home.

LEVS: Right.

GUPTA: The first question, I think, in a lot of people's mind is: why or what exactly happened? How did it occur?

LEVS: It's not planned and I would not -- I wouldn't recommend planning it. I mean, what happened in our case was that, basically, my wife skipped labor. She didn't spend anytime laboring. She knows what it is to labor. We have an older child.

GUPTA: It's your second child, right.

LEVS: It's her second child. We have an older child that was 24 hours of labor, which is standard.

With this one, all of a sudden, she felt something, bent over by the bed, was feeling something even more powerful, got down the floor, boom, within a couple minutes.

GUPTA: So, no contractions, because she knows what it feels like.

LEVS: She knows all the steps very well and she knows what the feelings would be. This is incredibly unusual. But it happened to her. So, she's down on the floor and says, "Call an ambulance." I get on the phone with 911, here's a clip of what happened.


JOSH: What do I do? I'm holding my baby's head?

911 OPERATOR: OK. Listen, I want you to support the shoulders and hold the hips and legs firmly.


911 OPERATOR: And remember the baby will be slippery, so don't drop it. OK?


911 OPERATOR: OK. So, is the baby completely out or just the head?

JOSH: No, just the head, I'm seeing the head. It's all scrunched up. But it's not crying. It's not making noise. The eyes are shut.

911 OPERATOR: OK. Have her to push hard and get the baby out, OK?

JOSH: Push hard, get the baby out. Push hard, push hard. Oh, my God, I'm holding my baby. It's an umbilical cord, there's something wrapped around its neck, I'm taking it off.

911 OPERATOR: OK, listen, gently wipe the baby's mouth and nose.

JOSH: It's choking -- it's choking on the cord. Breathe baby breathe. Breathe baby breathe. I'm taking the cord off.

911 OPERATOR: Let me give you CPR instructions for the baby, OK?

LEVS: All right, the baby is breathing.

911 OPERATOR: Is the baby breathing?

LEVS: Yes, it's breathing.


LEVS: So, you can see, there's a bunch of drama there along the way. We skipped 84 seconds in there before I saw my child taking a breath. Because at first, I just saw the head and then I saw the neck. And it was wrapped -- the umbilical cord was wrapped around the neck like a turtle neck, five times.

And until the baby was entirely out, you know, I had to take the time to make sure it was off and finally see that it was breathing.

GUPTA: You know, I was listening to that and watching you. I mean, I got goose bumps just listening to that. And especially the point where you said, "Oh, my God, I'm holding my baby" and then you recognize the concern about the umbilical cord. I mean, what was it like? What was going through your mind at this time?

LEVS: Pure adrenaline, an impossible amount of adrenaline, and total focus. There's only one thing on my mind, which is to make sure that my child was alive. I mean, you got to understand, you know, a lot of people imagine a sitcom where a guy delivers his baby. Isn't that funny?

What actually happened in our case was I thought something was wrong. She was three weeks from due date. There was no labor. There was no build up.

She fell to the ground in pain and couldn't talk anymore, and all of sudden, stuff is coming out and then I got my baby and then the umbilical cord around the neck. So, all I could do is open up in my mind every real-life birth story I had ever heard. And think what do I know? What do I know?

And -- well, the 911 operator was telling me some basic instructions. I knew that the umbilical cord can provide oxygen. And I knew I wasn't going to tie it off until I saw that my child was breathing. I didn't even look down to see the gender. I just held the baby.


LEVS: And I made sure that it could breathe.

GUPTA: And it's worth pointing out that the baby is fine.

LEVS: Perfect.


LEVS: Yes, he's perfect. He's amazing.

GUPTA: You know, you already had a son. He was 3 years old at the time. He was in the room when this all happened.

LEVS: Right.

GUPTA: So, I'm not sure that's a conversation you may have at some point about all that happened. But how has it changed you, though, as a father?

LEVS: When you're delivering your child and making sure your child can breathe, there's really only one thing that matters in this world. And it's just a reminder of what values are, that if you're a dad, being a dad is number one. It's this feeling that you want to have, that you want to provide for your child. And it builds a relationship, too, for all of us.

Yes, my older child was there. It just so happened he was in the room. And, forever, this will be an experience that all of us share.


LEVS: I don't recommend that people do this. If something have gone wrong --

GUPTA: Right.

LEVS: -- it would have been awful to be home. And the minutes it could take to a hospital would have been a problem. But in our case, it built a really powerful connection and something that turned out to be really good, really exciting.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you certainly will have something -- especially if your child is misbehaving at any point, you can say, look, I delivered you. I took the umbilical cord --

LEVS: Right. In his teenage years, I'm going to use that.

GUPTA: You know, people -- obviously, as I think you're alluding to, nobody wants to be in this situation.

LEVS: Right.

GUPTA: You said you were sort of drawing on anything you'd ever watched or learned about delivering a baby. Are there -- are there a couple golden rules should someone find themselves in this situation?

LEVS: You know what's happened? I -- as a result of this, as a reporter and as a guy who's in the situation wanted to learn, what happens in birth? What's normal? What should be expected?

So, I went and interviewed a doctor who's an expert on this. She has delivered hundreds and hundreds of babies and all sorts of situation. She kind of gave a little primer.

Here's a clip.


DR. JULIE ZIMMERMANN, OB-GYN: And it takes about 30 to 45 seconds for the kiddo to take its first breath, open its eyes, start to move its arms and its legs. So, although it was very scary and the baby comes out blue, this is perfectly normal.

LEVS: I wanted to make sure that I was getting the umbilical cord off the baby right. I was able to just take it and go like this. Is that the right thing to do?

ZIMMERMANN: As the baby comes out and you're going to take a finger and loop it behind the baby's neck and see if there's a portion of the umbilical cord. If you're able to snag a portion of the umbilical card, and then you're going to pull it gently over your baby's head. And then sometimes it is wrapped one or two or even three times around, and you just gently pull it through.


LEVS: See, this is old hat to you. You know these things. I was watching (ph) the situation and know nothing.

GUPTA: I'm watching and learning, because as you say, it is pure adrenaline at that point.

LEVS: Yes.

GUPTA: Came back to work eventually.

LEVS: Right.

GUPTA: What was the response from your colleagues? Because we'd all heard about the story.

LEVS: Yes. You know, because it's so unbelievably unusual, everyone did -- here, let me show you something. Christine has something I brought in today, a little prop. This is something that everyone here at work gave me. A very cute idea, let me hold it up, a little catcher's mitt. Everyone signed and I appreciate it, everyone in the newsroom. So, thank you very much.

GUPTA: Don't drop the baby.

LEVS: No, look, I mean, it's a life-changing experience. I don't want to encourage everyone to put yourselves in the situation like that, but in our case, it worked out incredibly. I have this amazing, beautiful son, beautiful family. And I'm happy that it happened.

GUPTA: I know some time has passed and it's not something that you were ready to talk about for some time. We appreciate you sharing the story. Also your blog on, amazing. I read it. Thanks so much.

LEVS: Thanks, Doc.

GUPTA: Appreciate it.

Next up: triathletes going for a run on a rainy day -- looking pretty good there. Look, performing well in a triathlon means eating right. You can't do one without the other. We're going to sit down and talk to nutritionists about the best way to fuel the body across the finish line.

Stay tuned.


GUPTA: We're back with SGMD.

You know, by now, you may have heard that I'm going to be competing in the New York City triathlon with six of our viewers. I'm very excited about this. We call them the six-pack. It's a name that stuck.

Of course, we're going to do a lot of training ahead of us. But I can tell you, it's certainly not all about the exercise. Nutrition is just as, if not more important.

So, to help me and the six-pack stay on track, we recruited Frances Largeman-Roth. She's a dietitian. She's also senior nutrition editor with "Health" magazine. She's here with our participants, obviously, Kendrick and Scott.

People already know you guys now. You guys are back. Thanks for coming.


GUPTA: This is a big part -- I mean, you can't do one without the other here when it comes to training for something like this. And Kendrick told us -- you eat out a lot.


GUPTA: And when you're on the road, it's particularly problematic because you're -- it's hard to cook at home, obviously, you're on the road. What sort of food do you normally order?

HENLEY: Normally, JUST hamburger, fries, Coke or something.

GUPTA: You go through the drive-thru?


LARGEMAN-ROTH: We can improve upon that. We're going to get rid of the soda, right, Kendrick?


LARGEMAN-ROTH: OK. We're going to get rid of the fries. And we're going to go for more -- there will be still be something there.


LARGEMAN-ROTH: We're going to go we're going to add in some salads. And then you can still do, you know, a burger now and again. You're going to be burning more calories. That's the good thing. Also, we're not going to do the drive-thru so much. We're going to be cooking at home some more.

GUPTA: And still eat. I mean, people tend to want to think that they have to starve themselves. That's not the answer.

LARGEMAN-ROTH: Not the answer at all. In fact, if you're doing the training like these guys and like you're going to be doing for the triathlon. If you don't fuel your body, then you set yourself up for overeating later on.

GUPTA: Right. And I was thinking, water-dense food. That's something that stuck with me. So, foods that have a lot of water in them. Hamburger patty does not, lettuce does.

LARGEMAN-ROTH: Exactly. And also fiber. Fiber helps you feel full. We want fats, but we don't our fats to be saturated fats, like the kinds from French fries. We want to get healthy fats in our diet. That also helps you feel satisfy so that you can feel fuller longer.

GUPTA: Now, Frances, you know Dr. Scott Zahn.


GUPTA: He saw his own doctor. His own doctor told him that he was having some particular issues with cholesterol, for example. And this was -- this is part of what inspired you to do this. Now, you're not taking medications now, is that right? Or you started --

DR. SCOTT ZAHN, FIT NATION TEAM: No, I got started on medications.

GUPTA: As far as just dietary changes and addressing something like cholesterol. I mean, are there specific places you tell someone to start? What's your diet like now?

ZAHN: Pretty much what I can eat when I have a chance. Some of it's fast food, occasionally meals at home with the family. But usually, it's pretty quick and rushed.

GUPTA: Were you surprised that your cholesterol was elevated?

ZAHN: I've had it checked before. I wasn't surprised. It was just time to make a change. My cholesterol's not as bad as the HDL/LDL ratio.

GUPTA: Bad cholesterol, good cholesterol.

I mean, you know, medicine -- food is medicine, Frances. What would you tell someone like Scott to start?

LARGEMAN-ROTH: Well, you know, the cholesterol's a concern, but also his hypertension is a concern.

GUPTA: Right.

LARGEMAN-ROTH: And so, of course, the USDA just recently released new guidelines that said for anyone who has hypertension, anyone over 51, and anyone who's African-American, the sodium limit is 1,500 milligrams.

GUPTA: So, quick quiz, do you know how much sodium you take in in a day?

ZAHN: No idea.

GUPTA: People don't know.

LARGEMAN-ROTH: I would guess 3,000 to 4,000 milligrams a day, especially if you're dining out, which we talked about and you're doing some frozen stuff at home, as well. And so, we talked about some healthier frozen options. There are now some companies who were doing lower sodium options.

So, you know, you can't cook every night, most of us. Scott's busy, he has a practice. He has four kids at home. So, you know, we're going to have some quick options, but we're also going to work on cooking more and sitting down as a family more.

GUPTA: Right. Obviously, salt can be used as a preservative for foods, which is why it's in packaged food. But it's also flavoring. Other flavorings to substitute for salt?

LARGEMAN-ROTH: Well, you know, nothing quite does the same thing as salt. But balsamic vinegar, onion, garlic, and then, of course, fresh herbs and citrus juices can really elevate the flavor of foods and really kind of add that punch that a lot of us look for that we usually get from salt.

But it's also -- I talk a lot about the thresholds. So, Americans have a really high threshold for salt and really high threshold for sugar and sweetened things.

GUPTA: Right.

LARGEMAN-ROTH: So, it's about changing it over time. And that's actually what the food companies are doing. They're not slashing the sodium in half. They're doing it gradually so that our taste buds can actually adjust to it.

GUPTA: So, we'll read some labels, which sounds like a simple thing, but it can make that huge difference with the hypertension.

LARGEMAN-ROTH: Absolutely.

GUPTA: I'll be right there with you guys. No more fries and Cokes.



GUPTA: All right.

HENLEY: All right. Thank you.

GUPTA: Good luck, guys.

And we have an update on Scott now, as well, just six weeks into his training, in his new diet, he e-mailed us to say that his doctor has already been able to take him off of one of his blood pressure medications. So, in Scott's case, preparing for a triathlon is good medicine. Congratulations, Scott.

And thanks to all of you for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

More news on CNN starts right now.