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DR. DREW

World`s Worst Mom?

Aired September 18, 2012 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST (voice-over): Two little girls snatched in broad daylight from a park in Iowa. Just one of the many recent child abduction stories.

Now another woman is making headlines, being called the "world`s worst mom". Why she charges hundreds of dollars for you to drop your kid off in a park while she sits nearby at a coffee bar. She claims she is letting kids have the childhood they`ve been missing in this age of helicopter parenting.

But is this the way for kids to have a normal childhood or is this a pedophile`s dream come true?

Then sex life after heart surgery. Lots of people are afraid, but actor/director, and former teen heart throb Robby Benson survived four heart surgeries and he and his wife say things have never been better. Love life after the knife.

Let`s get started.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: But first, I`m here with Lisa Bloom, herself a mom and a legal analyst of Avvo.com and the author of "Swagger."

We also are joined from New York by Lenore Skenazy who has been called the world`s worst mom because, Lenore, you`ve been charged -- I`m not saying that. But people have said.

Lenore, you`re charging parents, charging other parents $350 for something you`re calling unsupervised play. Tell us about what that is.

LENORE SKENAZY, OFFERING UNSUPERVISED PLAY-DATES FOR NYC KIDS: It`s this wild idea I have. I actually don`t know where I should be looking.

PINSKY: You`re fine. You`re right where you should be. We see you loud and clear. Go right at it.

SKENAZY: OK. Great.

What I started as a class called "I won`t supervise your kids" and that`s exactly what it is. I`ve invited children ages eight to 18 to join me in Central Park on Wednesday afternoons at 3:45. Anybody who`s out there who wants to do it. It`s at the corner of 85th and 5th.

And once the children gather, they get to know each other, I say, hello, I greet them. Then I go off to a coffee shop and I have a cell phone with me in case anybody really needs me. And they have to figure out something to do.

This is an activity I call playing. It`s something that we did as kids back when, believe it or not, the crime rate was higher than it is now. So when I suggest let`s try this again, children are missing out on play. I`m not saying let`s do something radical. I`m saying let`s do something that we did as kids that our parents allowed us to do when the crime rate was higher. The crime rate was higher in the `70s, `80s, and `90s.

PINSKY: Well, Lenore, what makes me uncomfortable about that is that I, every day in my professional life, I`m dealing with the consequences of the play that occurred around the criminals that were lurking about in the `60s and `70s, and it`s catastrophic. We have a pandemic of kids having suffered abuse. And learned from that and now, maybe we`re adjusting that and watching, and maybe we`re hyper-vigilant.

Lisa, do you think we`re hyper-vigilant? We`re too vigilant?

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY AND MOTHER: I do. Well, first of all, I think the business model is hilarious. If anyone wants to pay me to not watch their kids, I`m happy to take that much --

PINSKY: And listen, I noticed that 85th and 5th, right by the Metropolitan Museum. And I think she goes actually into the museum and goes to the impressionist section.

BLOOM: But I do want to give a shout-out to Lenore, because I raised my kids a half a block from Central Park. And we have to separate fear from facts. Everybody`s afraid of New York City. It`s actually one of the safest cities in America. And Central Park, one of the safest precincts in the park.

And I think kids, I would say, middle school and older who have demonstrated responsibility, they call when they say they`re going to, they come home when they say they`re going to. They`re with people that you are OK with as a parent. I think it`s OK for them to go to the park and play on their own.

PINSKY: Lenore, you said 8 to 18, is that correct?

SKENAZY: I did. And I chose the age of 8 for a reason, because in the rest of the world, age 7 is the age most start walking or taking the bus by themselves to school.

PINSKY: I`m not happy -- I wouldn`t be happy with my 9-year-old around 15 or 16-year-olds that would not -- that I didn`t know. That I hadn`t vetted carefully.

BLOOM: You know, I think it`s careful determination.

(CROSSTALK)

PINKSY: They don`t get to. They pay $350 and Lenore makes the determination for them.

BLOOM: That just doesn`t make any sense. I don`t think she has takers on that.

But can a 9-year-old walk to school on their own?

PINSKY: That`s a different issue.

BLOOM: I mean, some parents would say yes. Some would say no.

Well, kids may be walking through a relatively unsafe area. Central Park is a very safe area. It`s filled with cops and moms with kids in strollers.

PINSKY: So what are we saying here?

SKENAZY: Central Park is extremely safe. As your other guest was saying, it is the safest precinct in New York City. Last year, it had 25 million visitors. And of those, there were two rapes. It`s terrible there were two rapes. But Texas has 25 million people and if there were just two rapes in Texas, I think you would consider it very safe. This year there was one rape.

PINSKY: I know.

SKENAZY: What I`m suggesting a kids of different ages get together and the different ages was deliberate. One of the things kids miss out on today when they are in all their structured activities after school is the chance to just play with someone a little older, have a mentor who teaches them how to play basketball.

My son when he was in middle school was playing basketball with older kids. He got better. And then this summer, he was teaching a 12-year-old. There`s something great --

PINSKY: OK.

SKENAZY: -- about the leadership that you get and also the mentoring you get.

PINSKY: Heard. Understood. I want to take some calls. I know the viewers probably have input on this.

Melissa I have out there, where -- yes, Melissa in Ohio, what do you got?

MELISSA, CALLER FROM OHIO: I just had a question -- as a mom myself I would not be comfortable allowing a stranger to watch my child and in addition to pay that.

SKENAZY: But I`m not watching your child.

PINSKY: Oh, the good news, the good news, Melissa, is she`s not watching your child. This is fantastic.

SKENAZY: You do have -- you do have --

PINSKY: Go ahead, Melissa.

MELISSA: If you`re taking $350 to have somebody not watch your children, then I don`t know the credibility behind it.

BLOOM: Yes, that part doesn`t make any sense, because you can send your kids to the park for free.

And, listen, my kids were 23 and 21, law student, college senior, very emotionally healthy, and doing well. And they grew up sometimes going to the park with their friends after school to play. I think it can be helpful.

PINSKY: Let`s put the fee aside. That`s something you overstated your case perhaps a bit with.

SKENAZY: And I do offer scholarships to anyone who would like to come. What I really would like, I mean, the cool idea that I had is the idea of children coming together who don`t necessarily know each other, having to figure out something to do on their own. This is a skill that kids have lost out on.

Do you know that of kids ages 9 to 13, only 6 percent of them play outside on their own the way we did as kids? When you play outside on your own without somebody telling you what to do, you develop leadership. You come up with creative ideas. You compromise on what you`re going to play. You make --

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: Getting them away from screens and TV and video games and computers is important.

PINSKY KSY: All good. But let`s not over-romanticize something that an emigrant population did 80 years ago, which is threw their kids in the street and the ones that survived made it to adulthood.

BLOOM: That`s how I was raised.

PINSKY: No, you were in the valley somewhere, right? That`s not the streets of New York City.

BLOOM: New York City is the safest big city in America.

PINSKY: Now, it is. I`m just saying. We need to be careful about this.

Look, 600 kids a year lose a limb from lawn mowers. I mean, we are doing better with --

SKENAZY: Let`s not have them mow lawns.

PINSKY: The point is that accidents kill kids, we`re doing better. You can drown in a few centimeters of water.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: OK. But, Drew, what is the cost to children of helicopter parents who don`t let them had any independent?

PINSKY: All right. Hold that thought.

BLOOM: There`s a risk of not having freedom.

PINSKY: That`s what I want to talk about when we get back. We`ll take a quick break, take more of your calls, keep this conversation going.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: Two young cousins go missing together in Iowa.

NANCY GRACE, HLN HOST: Lyric and little cousin, 8-year-old Elizabeth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The grandmother is the last person to see them. She says they just left to ride their bikes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still, there`s no sign of what happened to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: It`s an awful story. It`s stories that like that are making us anxious. Two little girls riding their bikes in a park in a quiet town. Their abduction makes national headlines. They`re still missing.

Joining us now is their aunt Tammy Brousseau. And also, I got Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was kidnapped and murdered.

Tammy, I want to just go briefly if you wouldn`t mind and give us any updates on the girls? Is there anything going on now?

TAMMY BROUSSEAU, AUNT OF MISSING IOWA GIRLS (via telephone): There isn`t any new updates at all. There`s been news of surveillance tape going on. But there`s no new surveillance tape. There is absolutely no new information.

We are as though we were at day one. And we are two months passed.

PINSKY: Do you have a suspicion of what happened?

BROUSSEAU: My gut feeling tells me it was a local. Whether it was a pedophile or somebody who stole the girls to sell into the sex slave trade thing, I don`t know that.

PINSKY: Oh, my God. That must be impossible to live with that every day.

BROUSSEAU: It is impossible. And I`m telling you, as the days goes on it gets harder and harder. These are my two closest nieces. Lyric spent every day with me. Her and her mom would come out and get me every morning because I have an 11-year-old. And Kaylee (ph) and Lyric were best friends.

We swam, we jogged, we ran. We were getting ready, you know, me and mister, we`re getting ready to go back to work. We were having a fun summer with the girls, just a normal summer.

PINSKY: It`s just awful. I`m so sorry.

BROUSSEAU: It`s unimaginable.

PINSKY: Now, I don`t know if you`ve heard this conversation we`ve been having in the studio. We`ve been talking about letting kids play unsupervised in New York City. Obviously, your opinion is going to be skewed by your experience, but what do you say to that kind of parenting?

BROUSSEAU: I have this to say. We`re just a small town. We`re just a very small town. New York City is huge. I`ve been to Central Park before.

I just can`t envision anybody letting their kids run off and play. I just -- to me at this point, keep your kids close. You just never know what`s out there.

PINSKY: Tammy, I`m going to let you go. I want to thank you for joining us.

And our thoughts have been with you since this story first broke. I appreciate you coming and giving us an update. Thanks very much.

BROUSSEAU: OK. Thank you very much.

PINSKY: So, Lisa, the flip side is that. And your question was what about the price of over-intrusive parenting? Because of stories like this, have we become intruding into our kids` lives and preventing play, preventing this stuff that Lenore wants to allow kids to have, which is the ability to be creative, find play, get away from the computer screens and phones and mix with other age groups.

BLOOM: Yes, the way we used to.

PINSKY: Don`t over-romanticize stuff.

BLOOM: This is how I used to play growing up.

SKENAZY: Dr. Drew --

PINSKY: Go ahead, Lenore.

BLOOM: For hours.

PINSKY: Lenore?

SKENAZY: All I wanted to say is when our parents were letting us play as children and it wasn`t just immigrants 80 years ago. I know my mom let me go out after school. I`m not from 80 years ago. I bet your mom let you, too, when crimes was higher.

One thing that they didn`t have to do every time they considered letting us go outside is watch a clip of the very saddest story you can find in America right now from two months ago from 10 states away from me and have that be the determining factor of whether or not my mom let me go outside where I was growing up. Nowadays, if a child is in danger, almost anywhere in the world, if she`s taken from a hotel room in Portugal, if she`s murdered in Aruba, somehow that is the utmost importance in us making our decision about our own children and our own communities.

BLOOM: That`s an important point. Let me answer that, because we have so much fear on television and in our media -- fear, fear, fear, fear. Look, our children have to grow up and be out in the world on their own.

PINSKY: Yes, 16, 17, 18, I`m all for it. I`m all for teaching.

BLOOM: Are you saying kids should never go out on their bikes? I wouldn`t blame Tammy or her family members for the horrible tragedy.

PINSKY: Listen, kids used to go out with their bikes without helmets and without pads and die all the time.

(CROSSTALK)

SKENAZY: That`s a perfect analogy.

BLOOM: You`re supposed to put pads on them.

But, you know, the biggest risk to children is in their own home being abused, right, by a parent or family member. It`s not the stranger danger.

PINSKY: You`re right. That`s exactly true.

Chris is Washington, you want to ring in? Chris, go ahead. We can take call. Chris, go.

CHRIS, CALLER FROM WASHINGTON: Yes, hi, Dr. Drew. I just wanted to say why can`t she sit on a bench in the park and watch kids? Anybody who - -

SKENAZY: The coffee is calling. My whole point --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS: -- is making a mistake. You know, it`s not just hat other adults can hurt kids, but other children can hurt kids.

PINSKY: Yes. What about --

SKENAZY: It`s also that other adults can help kids and other children are there to help each other. We tend to think of things in what I call the worst first thinking. We think of the worst thinking that another person would harm a child.

As I just told you, there were 25 million people in Central Park last year. There`s not one report of a child hurt, abducted, murdered or raped.

PINSKY: That`s phenomenal?

SKENAZY: No, it`s not phenomenal. It`s normal.

PINSKY: It`s normal now.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: -- are very safe. They`ve got all the padding and the sand.

PINSKY: Let`s take a call. Again.

Dawn in New York.

DAWN, CALLER FROM NEW YORK: Hi.

PINSKY: Go ahead, Dawn.

DAWN: Well, actually we`ve been talking about this in my criminal theory class last week, we`re talking about social bond theory. And basically he said the parent is psychologically present when the child is in their control mode. So I agree with Lenore in terms of her free range parenting because children nowadays are not -- they don`t have the ability to try to manage themselves in these real life settings.

PINSKY: They don`t internalize their parent. But let me go to an expert on this.

But let me go to an expert on this, Marc Klaas. Lenore, I have to stop you. Please listen to me.

I`ve got to go to Marc Klaas who`s here. He`s now an expert on this topic. Let`s go to Marc and have him ring before I have to go to break.

MARC KLAAS, DAUGHTER WAS KIDNAPPED AND RAPED: Well, sure. First of all, Drew, I take great offense at her disparaging the tragedy of the day having been in that position myself.

PINSKY: Oh, did we lose him? Oh, Marc, I`m so sorry.

Here`s what I`m going to do. I`m going to take a break in a second and bring Marc back.

Lisa, before we go, though -- does Lenore have a liability not watching these kids legally? By the way, a lot of our anxiety comes from the legal system, which is always honest, honest.

BLOOM: That`s right. Us lawyers we`re responsible.

PINSKY: Yes, you are.

BLOOM: Lenore, I would advise you not to take money and then not watch kids. I don`t think that`s smart from a liability point of view.

And, you know, people are always asking, it came up on Avvo.com today. What if you leave a 2-year-old out in the front yard? Are you endangering a child? Is that negligence? And my answer on the site is, yes, it probably is.

I mean, there is an age at which you cannot let kids go outside by themselves now and play. Child Protective Services is going to come in. Two is clearly too young. You know, 14 and up is probably OK. And in the middle it`s really a gray area. And I think parents have to make that case by case determination based on their own kids.

PINSKY: OK. Here`s the deal -- Lenore, you`re doing an excellent job. I apologize for jumping on you. But I`ve got a lot of elements to get on.

Lisa, I can grab. I can reach her over and grab here, and I do.

And, Lenore, I got to reach to the screen to you. You`re an excellent guest. I appreciate you generating this conversation.

I`m going get calls going after this. I`m going to get Marc Klaas back in here, I hope we`ll get his Skype going again.

And later in the show, I`ve got actor/director Robby Benson on life, including his sex life, after four heart surgeries. That`s right. He and his wife will be here.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: All right. We`re having an interesting conversation about over-intrusive helicopter parenting versus maybe not watching carefully enough. Free range child bearing or rearing or parenting.

BLOOM: Free range parenting.

PINSKY: Free range parenting. And, Marc --

BLOOM: Free range kids.

PINSKY: Thank you. Free range -- that`s a lovely concept. But Marc Klaas whose daughter, I think we all know, was abducted. He has become an expert on this topic. He has been listening to this conversation.

We got a little piece of your opinion. I want to get more of it, Marc. Go ahead.

KLAAS: Thank you very much, Drew.

Listen. There are more than 32,000 registered sex offenders in New York, 10 percent of those are designated as sexual predators. That means that they`re of a high threat to recommit. Those individuals, a good percentage of those individuals focus upon children. They also know where children are and they know if parents are letting their children run free in parks with no supervision whatsoever, I think there`s a good chance they might start focusing on those locations.

I don`t think that we need to be helicopter parents by any means, but I think we need to take certain precautions to ensure our children`s safety, and turning our backs and depending upon the goodness of others to protect our children I think is really shirking our own responsibility to our own kids.

PINSKY: Let`s take a call.

Tiffany in California. Tiffany, what do you say?

TIFFANY, CALLER FROM CALIFORNIA: Hi, Dr. Drew. I`m a childhood abduction survivor. I find this idea horrifying.

PINSKY: Oh my goodness.

TIFFANY: I find it all the more horrifying because I was also raped by an older child I was left to play alone with when I was a child. But it`s the abduction trauma that`s so unique and profoundly affecting. And people are so unaware of. Parents who would leave a child unattended for a moment anywhere and anyone who would promote something so extraordinarily dangerous, risk inflicting unimaginable suffering and trauma on someone who well then be crippled for the rest of his or her life if she was at all.

PINSKY: Tiffany, you sound pretty good. Have you had treatment?

TIFFANY: I`m still working on it.

PINSKY: Right. As you know it`s something that kind of stays with you.

But you exactly represent to me my fear, because you`re right. We did live in a time when things were worse. And we now have this incredible reservoir of people who are injured by our lack of awareness of something we are now aware of.

Diana in Arizona. Thank you, Tiffany. It`s an excellent call.

Diane in Arizona.

DIANE, CALLER FROM ARIZONA: Thank you, Dr. Drew. We all know the statistics and the numbers on the girls -- the amount of girls that are raped out there. And we`re just finding out about it.

To put them out there like this is asking for trouble. To put different ages together is also asking for trouble. There are children to protect and to watch over, that`s our job as parents. It`s not helicoptering, it`s taking care of and protecting.

PINSKY: Lenore, I`ll let you respond to that. Go ahead.

SKENAZY: First of all, I feel very terrible for anybody who has been abused and as most, I`m sure, Dr. Drew, realize, that most of us know now, most of that is at the hands of somebody very close to the children often in their own home. What I was suggesting is a play date outside, a lot of kids, very public place that has had no crime against children in the past two years that I could see.

So I`m not suggesting that we drop our kids of in some deserted area with just an 18-year-old and a 6-year-old. I`m suggesting a group of kids playing together which only sounds radical and crazy now because we`ve made it sound strange. We think of the worst case scenarios and unfortunately of course we hear about them.

And they are piercing. They pierce my heart. I`m a mom too. I never want that to happen to my child. Yet putting my child in a mixed age group --

PINSKY: I`ve got to go to break. I`m going to have to interpret you. And I appreciate you raising this issue.

I don`t want us to beat you down. I want you to continue to fight this fight. It`s a viable conversation. We have to find the right balance here.

More calls 855-DRDREW5. I want to know if you -- Lenore after the break -- do you check the kids after to screen if anything happened with them. You interviewed them, find everything going on.

Take a break. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: This -- we`re about to show footage of a Philadelphia abduction in just brood daylight. Well, we`re going to look at these things. This is a man that grabbed a little girl. After a short struggle, the man, of course, dropped her. Let`s see, there she is out there, under that highlighted circle.

I mean, this does happen out in the world in cities particularly. Lisa, my question is does -- is there an age at which you legally can`t leave a kid alone or a -- even under the supervision of an older child that the law looks at with specific kinds of parameters?

BLOOM: I would say under the age of 12, it`s not a good idea to send a child off into the world alone. I would love to see videos of the millions of children who are having healthy, happy lives, grown into adulthood, who did go out and play on their own. I mean, I`m one of them. I was that kind of kid. And my kids to a little bit lesser extent also grew up that way. So, I mean, I think Lenore has a valid point. We have a lot --

PINSKY: If Lenore didn`t have a valid point, we wouldn`t have this conversation.

BLOOM: Listen, know who your kids` friends are. Only give them the level of freedom that they can be responsible for. If they`re supposed to be home at six, and they`re home at 6:15, they get less freedom tomorrow. They have to answer their cell phone. You have to know who their friends are.

PINSKY: Being a vigilant parent --

BLOOM: And teach them street smart.

PINSKY: -- not intrusive parent. Maryanna in Florida -- Maryanna. Maryanna in Florida.

MARYANNA, FLORIDA: Hi, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: What`s up?

MARYANNA: I just wanted to make a comment on this situation tonight.

PINSKY: Please.

MARYANNA: I have had four children of my own. And my children were driven to and from school. OK? I live in Southwest Florida. We had a drugs -- pardon me -- a sexual FBI bust on pornography for little boys and perverts, and they were 10 years old. They happened to be 10 years old. Leonara, I don`t know how old you were, but I`m 57 years old.

And in my day, yes, you could hang out in the neighborhood. You could ride your bike. You could do other things. There were no cell phones involved. Each parent knew each parent. Wake up. It`s not like that today.

PINSKY: Marc, do you agree with that?

MARYANNA: I believe a child, when they`re in junior high, when they have a cell phone, if they were the group appearance (ph) that you know the parent and who they`re with, it`s a totally different ball game, but I totally disagree with you.

PINSKY: Yes.

MARYANNA: And I also would like to know if you have any children?

PINSKY: She does have children. I want to show you a picture of their children, in fact. She has a lovely family. We have a picture of them. But Marc -- there they are right now. Healthy young boys. Marc, you ring in on this. What do you think?

MARC KLAAS, DAUGHTER WAS KIDNAPPED AND MURDERED: Well, listen, I like the idea of a lifeline. I think that giving cell phones to kids even as young as ten years old or maybe even a little younger is not a bad idea. And you know, there are also GPS family plans that exist with those cell phones if people want a little more control over where their kids are and what they`re doing.

I think you have to draw the balance, though. You can`t have your kids locked up all the time and you can`t have your kids just running free all the time. We, as parents, have the responsibility to ensure our children`s safety. And regardless of what she thinks, it`s not a Pollyanna world out there. It is a dangerous world. There are dangerous people. And we do have to protect against those individuals.

PINSKY: Mercy in Pennsylvania -- Mercy.

MERCY, PENNSYLVANIA: Yes. I just wanted to address the woman who thinks it`s okay to put a bunch of kids in a park and play together.

PINSKY: Go ahead. She`s here. Go ahead.

MERCY: I`m not putting her down as a mother. I`m a mother , myself. I have four children. And I agree with the balance. I agree with the point she`s trying to make. The kids need to be creative. They need to get out. I get that. What I don`t agree with is that there is absolutely no supervision from adults at all.

You`re putting kids together who don`t even know each other. You know nothing about them. I would know nothing about these kids. And that`s the problem I have. Why can`t you just have at least one adult watching?

PINSKY: Mercy, I think Lenore is going to extremes to make her case. And I`m going to let her off the hook for some of that. I think it`s all polemic (ph), but child on child abuse of various forms are one of the more common things I see these days and it is just as damaging as adult on child.

And by the way, it all starts with an adult on a child, then the children act out on other child. You guys, we got to end this conversation. It`s been an interesting conversation. Lenore, thank you for bringing this to our attention. I`m being willing to take a few bruises here. Marc, as always, thank you. And Lisa, of course, thank you. I really appreciate you bringing this into focus.

BLOOM: Thank you, Lisa.

(LAUGHTER)

PINSKY: Yes. Thank you for agreeing with Lenore.

Next up, actor Robby Benson, you remember the teen heartthrob and his wife, Karla, talking about his life after going under the knife chest surgery. Call us 855-DrDrew5.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY (voice-over): Sex life after heart surgery. Lots of people are afraid, but actor/director/and former teen heartthrob, Robby Benson, survived four heart surgeries, and he and his wife are here to say things have never been better. Love life after the knife. Let`s get started.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PINSKY (on-camera): I think you all remember my next guest. Robby Benson, he`s been an actor, writer, director. He has also had heart surgery four times. He wrote a new book called "I`m Not Dead.Yet!" and he`s here with his wife, Karla. Robby, you went from heartthrob to heart case. What was that whole arc like?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBBY BENSON, AUTHOR, "I`M NOT DEAD. YET!": Well, actually, I found out that I had a heart problem when I was a teenager, but I started become symptomatic -- the more athletic, the more movies that I did, the more it became difficult to breathe.

PINSKY: Yes.

BENSON: And I was actually told because I was taught old school by great, great actors like Rod Steiger, John Marley that if I ever had a heart problem, it`s like career suicide so make sure you keep it a secret - -

PINSKY: Oh, my goodness. Oh, my God!

BENSON: So, I did everything I could to try to keep going without anyone knowing about it.

PINSKY: Let me explain what it is you had. You had something called a bicuspid aortic valve. Aortic valve normally has three parts to it, and when people -- some people are born with two, two parts of the valve. And it`s a stress on that valve across the lifetime, and it degenerates and becomes stenotic. It becomes narrow and blood can`t get out or it breaks down and becomes incompetent.

(CROSSTALK)

KARLA DEVITO, ROBBY BENSON`S WIFE: -- was actually wide open by the time they got --

PINSKY: -- aortic insufficiency, so blood goes up and falls right back into your heart. And that`s very hard on the heart muscle. You get short of breath.

BENSON: And the heart muscle was gigantic and working like a water balloon -- or not working actually.

PINSKY: Yes. That`s really when aortic disease becomes dangerous. It damages the muscle and you put a pig or cow valve back in there to restore the valve functions which you --

BENSON: The bovine, right.

PINSKY: The bovine valve. You`re smiling.

DEVITO: We love cows.

(LAUGHTER)

DEVITO: You know, he didn`t want to eat meat after that one. It really worked well for 13-1/2 years.

PINSKY: But it must have been incredible, though, to have to hide this. And then, you must have had a certain amount of denial yourself. I mean, you`re young, healthy guy. You don`t want to believe this is going on.

BENSON: Yes. I -- I mean, being symptomatic, there was -- it was really hard to deny it. But, you know, in my book, I made some very foolish choices that I write about that I hope no one else makes where you try to control your environment and you think you can control your health.

PINSKY: Well, Karla is, like, smiling knowingly every time you say some thing --

DEVITO: Well, he ran the New York marathon in 3:05 the year before he had his --

PINSKY: So, with a damaged heart and muscle, a big baggy heart and a valve that was wide open, you run a marathon. How about after surgery, did you have trouble following doctors` directions and letting yourself heal?

BENSON: Well, what I did was -- actually, I refused to and -- which was also foolish which I hope people learn from the book, because my first concern was that Karla and my mom and my father and my sister were never frightened. So, I wanted to prove to them that --

PINSKY: You had to be looked right (ph).

BENSON: -- look what I can do.

PINSKY: Yes.

BENSON: And eight weeks to the day that they sawed me open, I ran a 10k. And --

DEVITO: And he did very well.

(LAUGHTER)

BENSON: I did well. And, you know, what`s so interesting is that now I can look at that and I used to think that was noble. Now, I can look at that and go, that was actually very selfish, because --

PINSKY: You could have hurt yourself and then lost you.

BENSON: Yes.

PINSKY: Yes.

BENSON: Because I was just thinking from a very backwards point of view.

PINSKY: And then, they ended up taking your pulmonary valve which is the valve that comes out of the heart and goes to the lungs and replacing the aortic valve with a pulmonary and putting a, what, a pig valve where the pulmonary valve is?

BENSON: Cadaver.

PINSKY: Cadaver valve.

DEVITO: Yes.

PINSKY: And that procedure had to be reversed. I mean, there`s has been a lot of surgeries here. So, I don`t bog down going through all the technical, you know, anatomy of the heart. You got depressed after some of these surgeries, which is very common.

BENSON: Well, especially after the second one, because when I awoke, I couldn`t breathe at all. I knew something was wrong immediately in the ICU. And basically for about six and a half years, my doctors and my cardiologist which is go, what do you expect, you`ve had two open heart surgeries.

PINSKY: Uh-oh.

BENSON: And literally, I -- around the fifth year, I took some tests and I went, you know, this is really bad. I mean, I -- I`ll tell you this, but I literally I can`t breathe.

PINSKY: Did you get suicidal through all this?

BENSON: I would say, no. I mean, I didn`t get suicidal. I would never do that to my children. You know, I mean, I could get depressed. I could, you know, write very dark funny comedy. I mean, you know, everything has to be funny with me even if it`s very dark.

PINSKY: That`s a good thing.

BENSON: Yes.

DEVITO: Humor is very important in our lives.

(LAUGHTER)

PINSKY: I promise -- you with that knowing smile every time Robby speaks, it`s like that was funny, too, Robby. Good job. But I mentioned that we`re going to talk about your physical life and your love life. Has that been affected by the surgeries? Have you restored that? Because the medicines, too, screw that up, too, by the way.

DEVITO: Well, you know, after the first and second open heart surgery, because it was tissue valves replacement, he needed nothing but one aspirin a day. So, he did not have -- he wasn`t on any other heart medication. But, you know, it`s so funny because this whole thing, it`s pretty funny about all of the sex life.

The main thing is what makes you feel good. In the world, it makes -- you know, we don`t talk about our sex life usually even with our best friends, but the reality is, people that are afraid to make love with the person they`re in love with after they`ve had surgery, that`s really bad.

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: Heart patients often feel that way. They`re afraid it`s going to precipitate a problem.

BENSON: Yes. No. I`ve never afraid.

(LAUGHTER)

BENSON: When it came to making love, no. There`s no fear whatsoever.

DEVITO: We`re fearless.

BENSON: We`ll show you.

DEVITO: No, no.

(LAUGHTER)

DEVITO: We`re saying this really just because it is a good thing for heart patients to understand.

PINSKY: And these are -- you know, again, when we talk about heart surgery just to clear it -- you know, most -- there`s bypass heart surgery which is blocking the arteries to the heart and causes heart attack and they bypass that. And there`s valvular heart disease which is very common these days.

People are living long enough. They have all kinds of valvular heart diseases and that`s what you have gone through --

BENSON: Right.

PINSKY: And then the heart muscle issue which is the whole other complicated problem and rhythms and everything goes with that.

BENSON: And I actually had that as well. Now, I have a mechanical valve. And as a matter of fact, you could probably hear it.

PINSKY: (INAUDIBLE). What do you got in there?

DEVITO: What is the name? It`s got a special name. I can`t --

BENSON: It`s plastic and it has less parts -- less moving parts which I liked. But it`s really loud.

PINSKY: Click, click, click.

DEVITO: -- but I don`t know.

PINSKY: Maybe you guys can hook a mic up to his chest so we can hear the clicking after the break. We`re going to take calls for Robby and Karla after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: I am with Robby Benson and his wife, Karla. Robby`s had four open heart surgeries for valve replacement and various revisions of that valve replacement. He now runs, swims across a lake, runs again, takes out door shower (ph). And right now the grin on his face is because he`s holding the mic up to his mechanical valve. Let`s see if we can hear it. Can you hear that? I can hear it from here.

(INAUDIBLE)

BENSON: What`s the matter with you?

(LAUGHTER)

PINSKY: Oh, they did get it.

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: Did you record it or did people actually hear it live? They heard it, excellent. OK. So, there you go. Let`s take a couple calls. Chris in Florida, what do you got for us?

CHRIS, FLORIDA: Hi, Dr. Drew. This is Chris. Robby you were my first love many, many years ago. When I found the book that I read when we were kid, when I was a kid, and I just -- I`m going through the same thing with my sister. She had two surgeries in December and she faces two more surgeries.

PINSKY: Has she had valve replacement surgery?

CHRIS: Two in -- yes -- in December, and she also had carotid --

PINSKY: Oh.

CHRIS: And then she had several other carotid done, and then she`ll have two more and then maybe in her leg.

PINSKY: Is she a diabetic or a smoker?

CHRIS: No. She`s got -- she`s perfect weight. She just has a lousy family history.

PINSKY: So, Robby, what words of advice would you give her?

BENSON: Wow. You know, I -- first of all, she has all my love. I really can identify. And probably, the smartest thing anyone ever told me not that I ever listened was if someone says you`re going to heal in six months, double it. So --

CHRIS: That`s what I tell her.

BENSON: Yes. Don`t -- make sure she`s not too hard on herself.

PINSKY: It`s very hard. Thank you, my dear. Karen in Ontario -- Karen.

KAREN, ONTARIO: Hi, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: Karen.

KAREN: I`ve got a question. You touched on the sexual aspects with Robby and Karla as far as post-surgical --

PINSKY: You`re making Karla uncomfortable, but go ahead.

DEVITO: No, it`s fine. It`s fine. We`re here to be helpful.

KAREN: My husband had undergone surgeries, plural, numerous, I should say --

PINSKY: Yes.

KAREN: -- since 2008 when he had a really bad accident. They included below knee amputation, numerous, all extremities. As a result, especially within the past year, sex drive is zero.

PINSKY: I`m going to predict he`s on opioid pain medication.

KAREN: You would be predicting correctly.

PINSKY: Yes. And that -- you know, with those kinds of surgeries, those kinds of injuries, opiates are necessary many times, but he needs to talk to his doctor about alternative pain control mechanisms. If right now that is now coming between you as a couple.

You guys made the point that that`s the last thing you want to lose is your intimacy and things you enjoy because of your medical condition if there`s -- particularly if there ways to adjust medication and adjust your lifestyle.

BENSON: Absolutely. You know, I think that for me, personally, all I have to do is look into Karla`s eyes and we`ve made love. I mean, I don`t think of it as sex even though it is. I mean, it`s -- but it`s just -- it`s just loving one another.

DEVITO: It`s so important. It`s that human connection and you can`t be afraid. I think that`s -- this sounds like a bit of a different situation.

PINSKY: It is but you`re making several good points, which is don`t be afraid of making that connection. And if something is impairing that connection, talk to the doctor about alternative ways of managing this. Karen, is that you, Karen, I`ve been talking to. Is that still you?

KAREN: Yes.

PINSKY: OK. Does that work for you, Karen?

KAREN: It does, absolutely. We touched base with our family doctor about it, and he is seeing a pain management as well.

PINSKY: OK. But remember, be careful as the opioids you want to get rid of because those things that block your sex drive.

KAREN: I agree completely and for numerous other reasons as well.

PINSKY: Well, if he`s getting addicted, that`s a whole other story and that needs to be dealt --

KAREN: Not to the point but don`t want that to even come close to be, you know --

PINSKY: Good. Excellent. Thank you for your call. Blair in Texas - - Blair.

BLAIR, TEXAS: Hey, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: Hi, Blair.

BLAIR: Robby, I am a major fan of yours. And I, too, has had some heart issues in the past. I was very lucky. I never had to have any heart surgeries. But my question to you is, how in the world do you get through your daily activities with knowing you`ve had four heart surgeries. How do you do it?

PINSKY: And Blair, not only does he go through these daily activities, tell them what you do.

BENSON: Well, first, I start my workout every day with at least 45 minutes of cardio, usually on the Stir Master. And then I go for a run which is close to two miles to a lake. And, then, I swim across the lake and then I run home. And then I take an outdoor shower. And then, we make love.

(LAUGHTER)

DEVITO: Our son`s watching this. I`m sorry.

PINSKY: But I think he takes a nap. Let me -- I`m going to do something --

(LAUGHTER)

PINSKY: -- and take a big right turn here now and bring in a special guest for you. It`s a surprise.

DEVITO: Really?

PINSKY: Yes. It`s someone who knows you inside and out. A doctor who can talk about your procedures, Dr. Pettersson, the cardiac surgeon from a Cleveland clinic. I believe you have said he saved your life. There he is on the screen.

DEVITO: Oh, my goodness! Oh, Dr. Pettersson, we love you.

BENSON: We really do.

PINSKY: Tell us why.

BENSON: Well, I think --

DR. GOSTA PETTERSSON, PERFORMED ROBBY BENSON`S OPEN HEART SURGERY: Hi, Robby and Carla.

BENSON: Hi, Dr. Pettersson.

(LAUGHTER)

PINSKY: What did he do for you guys?

BENSON: Well, you know, out of every doctor and surgeon I`ve ever worked with, because that`s how I kind of think of it.

PINSKY: That`s how it should be done properly.

BENSON: Dr. Pettersson is probably the most compassionate, loving, and giving person I`ve ever met and treats you with complete respect. And we don`t leave his office until he`s answered all of our questions.

PINSKY: And Dr. Pettersson, my understanding is this was a pretty hairy surgery, this revision of what he`s had done, bringing the pulmonic valve back into its position. How did he do?

PETTERSSON: I think he did very well. As you said, it`s a very large and complex operation. I`ve actually done almost a very similar one today. And you know, it`s an operation that takes at least three hours where the heart stops to bring all these things in order again.

PINSKY: And let me ask you one quick thing before we go to break. Is it OK that Robby runs and swims across the lake and then comes home and makes love to his wife. Sorry to your children.

(LAUGHTER)

PINSKY: Is that all still consistent with his medical management?

PETTERSSON: I think it is perfectly consistent. He should have a very good operation and very good heart function by now. So, I think it`s a very good thing to do for him.

PINSKY: OK. We`ll take a quick break.

BENSON: Thank you.

PINSKY: More with this conversation. Robby and his wife and Dr. Pettersson, too, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: Dr. Pettersson, I want to say thank you personally for giving us many, many more years with Robby Benson. And they wanted to shout out to Dr. Griffin, also the cardiologist who helped you out. So, thank you for joining us.

I only got very limited time. I want to give you, guys, a second to say and we are all living longer, we`re living with medical issues. What do you want people to know about living well with medical problems?

BENSON: Well, I would say --

PINSKY: We have 30 seconds.

BENSON: Find a place, be able to have an advocate. I think that`s so important.

PINSKY: You seem (ph) to talk about that. That`s in your book, too.

BENSON: Be an organ donor please. Find a place such as the Cleveland Clinic which I think is the most remarkable hospital on the planet. And find people who surround yourself with smarter people.

PINSKY: And I think having an advocate is something I would like to emphasize. We didn`t have that conversation. Have an advocate in your family and have an advocate in the system, a doctor, maybe (INAUDIBLE).

Thank you to all my guests. Thank you, Dr. Pettersson. Thank you all for watching. And thank you, of course, to those who called in tonight. I`ll see you next time. And guess what, Nancy Grace starts right now.

END