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One Teen's Heart Attack; Japan Through the Lens; New Image for L.A. Laker

Aired April 16, 2011 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Welcome to the program.

You know, in Japan, the nuclear crisis is just getting worse. You probably heard this by now. They now say it's as bad as Chernobyl.

We're going to talk to a photographer, Donald Weber -- he knows both of these places as well. In fact, he's just back from the exclusion zone around Japan, around that crippled nuclear plant.

And Ron Artest of the L.A. Lakers -- he's famous for his game, no question, but also infamous for his temper. By all accounts, he was out of control. That all changed by seeing a psychologist.

And that's Daniela. Just 19 years old. Her doctors told her she had a heart attack. We'll tell you exactly what happened and how you as well can spot the warning signs.

Let's get started.


GUPTA: Nothing about the story you're about to hear is typical -- a young, pretty girl out shopping, and then she's suddenly clutching her chest. She wasn't a smoker. She wasn't a drinker. She's not overweight. She's just 19 years old.

Now, we talk about heart disease all the time on this show. We talk about how to prevent the classic symptoms of it and we talk about how women are more affected than men.

But sometimes, the stories are just plain unusual and they are rare. The question is this: Would you know what to do?


DANIELA RODRIGUEZ, COLLEGE STUDENT: Hi. I'm Daniela Rodriguez. I'm 19 years old. And I'm a college student.

Everything started on Thanksgiving Day. I was in the table eating dinner and I just started feeling really hot. It was something I never felt before.

And two days later, I was shopping with my friends. I started to feel like the pain that goes through my throat. It was like this part over here.

And then a few minutes later, I started feeling my arm. It was like horrible. It wasn't like a pain. It was a like a lot of pressure. I feel like I couldn't breathe. It was horrible.

CECILIA VILLAREAL, FRIEND: I didn't want to scare her but I knew that something was wrong.

D. RODRIGUEZ: My friend she's kind of knew because she's older than me. So, she was like, I heard those are symptoms of a heart attack.

So, I was, like, no way. This can't be happening. She said, OK. She actually took my jacket of and where you feel the pain over here, over here, over here. And I tell here, over here. And she said, uh-uh, this is not normal.

VILLAREAL: And she started crying. You know what? The pain is really strong.

D. RODRIGUEZ: Let's go. Call your mom if you don't want me to take you to the hospital. Call your mom or call your dad. And I'll take you over there.

VILLAREAL: I dropped her with her parents and they took her right away to the hospital.

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ, DANIELA'S DAD (through translator): I was very emotional. I knew that something was not normal because she was admitted within 10 minutes. My wife was with her. And when she came out, she told me there was a problem with her heart.

D. RODRIGUEZ: So, I was, like, wow. I actually had a heart attack. I'm just -- I was surprised because how come I had a heart attack. I'm 19 years old. And that could never happen to somebody, you know, that pretty young. I used to hear like, OK, you know, all people have it in their 50s, 60s, 70s. So, it was something that wasn't normal.


GUPTA: It's so startling to look at those images. She's 19 years old and she's complaining, giving classic signs of a heart attack. I will tell you, she's doing better. She's taking medications at home and resting.

We really want to sort of dig down in this a little bit. So, joining us is her doctor, Dr. Jason Reingold. He's a cardiologist at St. Joseph's Hospital.

What happened? Nineteen-year-old with heart attack symptoms. What happened to her?

DR. JASON REINGOLD, CARDIOLOGIST: Yes. This is, you know, an exceptional story. And what Daniela had is what's called a spontaneous coronary infection. And to be honest, this is a rare cause but it's actually one of the more common causes in young, healthy female.

GUPTA: How common is this? Or how rare?

REINGOLD: Well, we don't have good estimates, but we think it's anywhere between 0.2 percent to 1 percent. And there's about 220 cases that have been published in literature.

GUPTA: So, exceedingly rare. But, you know, we do have this model here.

And my understanding is, if you take a look at the model, we're talking about these blood vessels here on top of the heart, called the coronary arteries.

REINGOLD: Yes. And these arteries that actually provide the heart with oxygen and nutrients. And most of this happened in what's called the LAD or the main artery. This feeds all of her heart. So, damage to here really has potential to jeopardize the heart.

GUPTA: It essentially just dissected, so she wasn't getting enough blood flow to the muscle of her anymore.

REINGOLD: Exactly. One of the walls actually teared apart and split open. And when that happens, blood went down the wrong pathway.

GUPTA: Is there any way she could have known that she had this condition?

REINGOLD: No, I think, you know, she had classic symptoms -- chest pain, the radiation down to the shoulder and to her arm. That's a signal of a heart attack.

GUPTA: You know, one of the things, Jason, is that we heard a lot recently about Ambassador Holbrooke. Several years ago, we heard about John Ritter, the actor, both dying from dissections. And, again, it was said they could have no idea that it was happening.

What happened in their case?

REINGOLD: It's the similar pathology. This time, you are involving the aorta of the main artery that feeds blood to all the organs. And in both cases, there's a weakness in the wall of the artery that predisposes, it's tearing and splitting apart.

GUPTA: When someone is having these sorts of symptoms. I mean, 19-year-old, you heard she says I got pain in the throat. I'm feeling hot. Most teenagers would blow this off thinking it's nothing.

How do you know when something is a problem?

REINGOLD: Well, the answer is you have to go to a doctor. That's the problem. We have to educate people about if they have the signs, they have to seek medical care.

GUPTA: Chest pain obviously one of them.

REINGOLD: Yes. She had chest pain. She had the shortness of breath. She couldn't catch her breath. She was sweating. She had really all of the classic symptoms.

GUPTA: How dangerous was this for her?

REINGOLD: Actually, 50 percent of patients who have this die immediately of sudden cardiac death.


REINGOLD: She's extremely lucky that she actually had a second chance.

GUPTA: And she's fine now.

REINGOLD: She's doing great now.

GUPTA: You know, we talk about heart disease all the time on this show. People don't realize this, but women actually have greater chance of dying from a heart attack than a man. Are there specific things women should be looking for?

REINGOLD: Yes, and I'm glad you brought that up. This is one of the stereotypes that we really have to get rid of. So, in women, they often have atypical symptoms. And that means that instead of having crushing chest pain, they may have shortness of breath, weakness, nausea, sweating. And it's hard for patients or physicians to know that they are actually having a heart attack in that early critical period.

GUPTA: If something like that's happening, get it checked out. And the good news is, the most times, it's not going to be a heart attack, but it's worth getting checked out.

REINGOLD: Right. I'm not saying that everyone with these symptoms is having a heart attack, but let your doctor decide.

GUPTA: Obviously, something we're really dedicated to. Appreciate it.

And also, don't forget to watch my upcoming special comes out this summer. It's called "The Last Heart Attack." The focus is on how we might see the last heart attack in America.

And next up, inside the exclusion zone around that Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. People have been told to abandon their homes and as we're learning, also abandon their lives.

And later in the show, Ron Artest. You know, this guy was known for the biggest fight in basketball history. Many of you may have seen it -- a Malice in the Palace. Well, now, he's fighting something else: taboos around mental health. We'll explain.


GUPTA: The news from Japan took an ominous turn this week at that crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radiation leaks are bad enough that the government has raised the alarm to the highest official level. It's a level seven. It's as high as Chernobyl.

Now, a few weeks ago, you may remember, we met Donald Weber. He's a photographer who had visited Chernobyl more than 20 times to see the long-term effects of the nuclear disaster. He told at that time that he was headed to Japan to see the so-called "exclusion zone." That's the area around the plant that residents have been told to evacuate probably forever.

Well, now, he's back from his trip and he joins me from Toronto.

Welcome, Donald.

DONALD WEBER, PHOTOGRAPHER: Hi, Sanjay. Nice to see you again.

GUPTA: You know -- thanks for joining us again. You know, I was fascinated to hear that you were going and I was also fascinated to hear that you were going into the so-called "exclusion zone."

First of all, how hard was it to get in there?

WEBER: Honestly, it wasn't very hard. I mean, it was quite surprising actually. I mean, when you hear the word exclusion zone -- I mean, I have memories of Chernobyl, which is a very difficult place to enter. So, I assumed that they would have the same level of military and police.

But, you know, driving in there, essentially, it's just a few traffic wardens who warn you of a looming nuclear catastrophe just down the road and please don't proceed any further. I mean, for us, we just said, well, it looks OK. I just want to go to the top of the hill and take a view. So, we just keep driving in.

GUPTA: There's still radiation leaking. I mean, were you worried that -- were you measuring your level of potential radiation contamination yourself?

WEBER: On a day-to-day basis, no, I wasn't measuring. But, I mean, I was -- I did some research about sort of where the more severe areas were and I kind of understand, you know, how radiation floats in the wind. We followed the weather patterns every morning and we had an app on our iPhone that was talking about wind direction.

So, we made a very -- you know, I guess, logical choice to stay north of the reactor because the winds come from north to south.

GUPTA: I guess you'll do just about anything to get some of these photographs that you're about to share with us. Let me ask you before I have you describe some of those. What was it like to be there?

WEBER: I mean, the most startling thing for me was when we were getting closer and closer to the reactor was, where is everybody? There's absolutely nobody there. And I remember first getting out of the car. And the thing that struck me the most other than the lack of people for obvious reasons was the total silence.

And, you know, usually when you say to somebody, oh, it's so quiet here. There's also going to be some sort of background noise or white noise. You know, birds chirping in the distance or something. But literally here, it was like being in a soundproof box.

GUPTA: You describe it like a ghost town. There's a picture of basically chairs in the street. Obviously, nobody is sitting there. I mean, what was going on? Was that essentially people who just -- you know, were there and just evacuated and left that ghost town feeling

WEBER: I remember seeing that from a distance and I said, are those chairs in the middle of the street? So, it kind of drew me towards it and kept walking to it, because the way they are positioned is like a picnic or something, you know? And suddenly, you know, one minute you are having a picnic and next you disappeared and that's very common throughout there. You had these little tableaus or people going about their lives and then suddenly there's no people there.

GUPTA: What were some of the other -- I mean, you know, the people who are there, I mean, there are people who chose to stay. They are wearing masks. There was one woman who even sort of walking her dog down the street.

I mean, did you get a chance to talk to them? Or what was going on in their lives right now?

WEBER: We're sort of up at the top of a little hill. And this woman is taking her dog for a walk. It's quite amazing. So, we went down and talked to her.

And, you know, she ended up telling us the only reason she's decided to stay is because they're not allowed to take her dogs and she wanted to be with her dog, who she considered to be part of the family. And that was very common actually. Out of those 10 to 12 people that I spoke with, there were four separate people that we met. The only reason they've decided to stay in the exclusion zone is because their dogs or their pets.

GUPTA: You can't help but remember that obviously there was a major tsunami as part of this as well. There was an earthquake and a tsunami and the radiation discussion has really dominated. But the tsunami, a lot of people lost their lives as a result of that.

I mean, did you see evidence of that still, you know, so many weeks later around the plant or in that zone?

WEBER: Yes. I mean, that was something -- I think it was just the day before actually went into the exclusion zone. I read a report online with a quote from a Japanese government official saying we found all of the bodies inside the exclusion zone. The only bodies that we haven't picked up yet are the ones that are inside.

And, you know, going in there the next day, I saw a body. I mean, I counted three bodies myself.

GUPTA: I mean, I've seen some of those images. They are hard to look at. One of the things that struck me when I was there as well is that, obviously, you know, radiation in Japan having a very complicated history. I mean, you know, people are fearful of radiation for good reason, what happened during World War II.

But I was also surprised to hear that so many people are discriminated against who have been exposed to radiation. Did you see evidence of that? There's a term for it, hibakusha, where people are called radiation survivors. And it's almost used in a pejorative sort of way.

WEBER: Just as we were entering into the zone, we met a man who was, you know, fixing up his property just kind of getting it ready. And he had three young children who were, you know, toddlers or kindergarten age. And I kind of brought up the word hibakusha, and everybody sort of laughed nervously.

And I could tell he was sort of uncomfortable. And then a few minutes later, he came back and said, well, you know what? I've already driving in my car you can tell the license plate where you come from that says Fukushima. People are, like, get away from me. You got Fukushima plates.

And he was concerned about his daughter who was just going to be entering kindergarten, that she was, you know, already being taunted by the fellow kids as being radiated, as, you know, modern hibakusha. Absolutely. Very quickly too, you know, within two weeks.

GUPTA: It's so sad. I mean, considering all they've been through. I mean, you met a few people who are coming back to pick up their belongings as well, I understand.

WEBER: Again, just wondering around the streets and I saw this sign that was taped to a wall and it basically said in Japanese, "Be strong, Fukushima. You know, never relent."

And so, I went into the home and I saw these kids and they were packing up. And, you know, the mother sort of pulled me aside and said, look, we told the kids that we're just coming back to get personal effects. You know, it's exam season right now in Japan. They think in a few months, maybe, I don't know, six months from now, we're going to be coming back. But don't tell the kids we're never coming back here. Our life in Odaka is finished.

You know, that to me was probably the most powerful thing that I heard all this time.


WEBER: You know, you see the cars literally jammed full of belongings and such and the boy had written on his hands a sort of shopping list of things that he wanted to get. And I was thinking in my head as well, well, if I had five minutes, 15 minutes to choose my life, what would I take with me?

GUPTA: What an impossible and difficult decision to make.

Well, Donald, thanks again for joining us. Thanks sharing for those photographs with me. I think it's important for people to hear the stories of the real people who are really dealing with this on a daily basis. So, appreciate you being on the show.

WEBER: Yes. Thanks for having me.

GUPTA: It's Donald Weber. He's a photographer -- again, just back from the exclusion zone around that crippled nuclear plant in Japan. Like a ghost town he says.

We'll have much more SGMD right after the break.


GUPTA: And we are back with SGMD.

You know, the NBA playoffs are kicking off and I just had a chance to catch up with one of the most fascinating players in the game, Ron Artest of the defending champion L.A. Lakers.

Now, you may know him. He's a real star on the court. But he is probably best known for his temper and for brawling with fans, especially in the disastrous brawl back in 2004. Since then, though, I can tell you, his life has really changed.


RON ARTEST, LOS ANGELES LAKERS FORWARD: Today, we visited a school in Inglewood. Yesterday, we visited a clinic, mental health house clinic in south central, you know? And -- so I move around a lot, you know, to try to stay involved.

GUPTA (voice-over): After practice, this is what L.A. Lakers forward Ron Artest does in his free time. He's raising awareness about mental illness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Artest, loading up the threes.

GUPTA: Now, it's not exactly what most people would expect from the man who made the cover of "Sports Illustrated" for storming the stands in Detroit after a fan threw a drink at him. That was back in 2004.

(on camera): You know, when people watch the videos of you, like they will forever when you were angry, it's a different Ron Artest today.

ARTEST: Definitely. Definitely. Doesn't have the confidence to let people know I had a problem and I managed the problem. Yes, I did see a psychologist. Yes, I do still -- I saw him before game seven.

GUPTA (voice-over): In fact, after the Lakers won the NBC championship last year, Artest's first shout-out went to his psychologist.

ARTEST: I want to thank my doctor, Dr. Sandeep.

GUPTA: Essentially telling the world he was seeking help because he needed it. Then he raffled off his championship ring for more than half a million dollars. That went to his charity, which helps high-risk kids.

(on camera): Do you have a particular diagnosed mental illness?

ARTEST: No, I don't have a mental illness. At the age of 6 years old, I had anger management problems. There was a lot of frustration and tension in my household. As I, like, old, I'm like, I'm always mad for some reason, you know?

GUPTA: Do you have anger management issues anymore?

ARTEST: Not as bad as I used to.

GUPTA (voice-over): But he does say there's been a lot of mental health issues in his family and he knows counseling has helped him deal with these issues and it can help others, too. They have to have access to therapy.

ARTEST: And I'm still not perfect. What I tell people, I'm an example, you know, I'm no longer a statistic. I'm an example, I'm a solution, and I'm trying to be a role model. I'm not a role model yet. One day I will be.


GUPTA: And there are other big names as well speaking out on mental health. Catherine Zeta-Jones said his week, she's been treated for bipolar disorder. In fact, she checked herself into a hospital.

And also, Patrick Kennedy -- he's the son of late Senator Ted Kennedy. He left Congress last fall after eight terms and just a few months after his father died. Now, Patrick says he has struggled for years with addiction, and, one point, he was also diagnosed as bipolar.

He told me he's now launching an initiative to explore the brain and find cures for mental illness. It's an ambitious project but he told me his own health comes first.


PATRICK KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I would say I've been to rehab easily over half a dozen times.

GUPTA: Was there a time when you said this isn't working and this just doesn't work?

KENNEDY: Well, one of the things that I knew, I need to do, was to live a life that could support my recovery in a way that was more conducive to long-term recovery. And that's why I chose not to run for re-election because, frankly, living in the public eye and in political life, was not conducive to really getting that kind of long- term, steady recovery that, you know, is absolutely got to be the number one priority in my life.


GUPTA: You can watch my full conversation with Patrick Kennedy as well. It's a fascinating one. It's about the momentous year in his life and that's going to air next month, May 15th.

Also, just ahead, you know this triathlon training thing -- I want to tell you about a problem I ran into. See if you can relate to this. I'll have it for you right after the break.


GUPTA: I also have an update on our triathletes. Next week is the halfway point of training and we are meeting in Hawaii to take a measure of how it's all going.

I got a confession to make, my training, not so much. I could make excuses, but I know a lot of you are in the same boat. So, when this past week started, I thought I'd show you a little bit of how I'm trying to get it back on track.


GUPTA: A few months now to this triathlon and it's a little nerve-racking. I've been traveling all over the world. It's very hard to train in many of the places I've been -- most recently Japan. I fly to places like this. I'm in Denver now, here for just a few hours doing a few more shoots.

How to get it all in? That becomes the real question, the real challenge.

My perspective right now is that I obviously got to do something. I got to try to do something, no matter how small, every single day. That's what I'm going to do now.

Here I am in the gym. I got just a little bit of time, but I found this gym here in Denver. It's actually part of the story I'm shooting.

Dr. Maroon (ph) is a triathlete. He's 70 years old. He's done seven iron mans.

So, I'm going to get a workout in with him, that's how I'm sort of combining things today.

I didn't know if I would be able to keep up with Dr. Maroon.

All right. So, down about six hours here in Denver. I got my work done. I got a little bit of a workout in even, you know, working with this guy, Dr. Maroon, and I incorporated that into my own workout. I'm to a new city, new zip code, and again, get a little something in every single day. See what the next city brings.

Well, it's the end of the week now. I'm in New York -- traveled to Atlanta, Colorado, New York. I did manage to get a workout in here. I had to wake up at 4:15 in the morning to get it done. Not as much work as I would like to do this week, but we'll see what the weekend brings.

So, good luck to me. Good luck to you.


GUPTA: About four flights in five days. Tell you what? It's tough, but I'm looking forward to Hawaii. I'm going to do some catching up there.

Also, going to catch up with our six-pack -- that's the rest of our triathlon challenge team. We're going to swap some lessons and some tips and hopefully get in a bit of practice racing as well. Hope you're there to see it, so you can get something out of it at home.

Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

More news on CNN starts right now.