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Iraq: Ten Years Later; Supermodel Defies the Odds; Know Your Knees

Aired March 23, 2013 - 16:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Hello, everyone. And thanks for joining us.

You know, 12 years ago, supermodel Niki Taylor, she was brought to the hospital where I worked in critical condition after a car accident. Well, this week, she came back. She's fully recovered and she's bearing a message she wants to share right here, in just a few minutes.

Also, I want to talk about your knees today, your knees -- how to keep them in prime condition as you get older.

And also, warning about children and dangerous products in the home. You need to hear this. I'm going to reveal the biggest big dangers.

Let's get started.

First, though, 10 years now since the start of the Iraq war. I have had the chance to visit some of the people I met during the fighting. At the time I was reporting from a dusty desert medical tent south of Baghdad. Doctors were huddled over a 24-year-old marine named Jesus Vidana. He had been shot. He had shrapnel in his brain.

And as it happened, I was the only neurosurgeon in the area. I was asked to help. I didn't hesitate.

And Jesus was fortunate. He made it. But I recently paid a visit to see what happened when the chaos was over.


GUPTA (voice-over): With his jaw set is, his eyes gleaming, Jesus swells with pride. He's a marine ready for battle. He has no clue a single bullet will soon dramatically change his life.

(on camera): You miss it.


GUPTA: That would strike people as ironic given that you were shot in the head.


GUPTA: To say that you miss being a marine.

VIDANA: It was probably one of the best experiences of my life. I don't regret being in it.

GUPTA: So you still keep the helmet?

VIDANA: Yes. Right here. That's the entry wound.

GUPTA: You can tell how bigger the opening is it was when it got through the helmet.

VIDANA: It's been so long, it's almost ten years. Next month, it will be 10 years.

GUPTA: Yes, April 8th.


GUPTA (voice-over): On that day in 2003, bombs and bullets rained down across Baghdad. Vidana's unit was on patrol when snipers fired. One moment, Vidana was yelling orders from his commander into a radio. The next -- he fell silent. A single bullet had pierced his helmet.

Just south of Baghdad, I was embedded with a surgical unit called the Devil Docs, where Vidana would eventually be transported. Less than an hour after being shot, Vidana had already been declared dead twice. But by the time he got to us, he had a faint pulse. There were no neurosurgeons in the unit. I was asked to operate. I didn't hesitate.

GUPTA (on camera): You're alive. That's what people always say. He survived when people thought maybe he wouldn't. How are you doing?

VIDANA: I don't know. I guess you always -- you can always wish things were better.

GUPTA (voice-over): Since returning from Iraq, Vidana has struggled with side effects of his traumatic brain injury, seizures, major fatigue, depression.

VIDANA: I have felt like, you know, it would have been better had I not lived just because, you know, every day is a struggle with the depression. Depression just comes. You know? Unexpectedly and with a fury.

GUPTA (on camera): What does that mean?

VIDANA: I feel like I need to get away from everything. I want to crawl into a cave and shut myself off from the world.

GUPTA (voice-over): That metaphorical cave, the darkness is common with returning veterans. About one in five Iraq and Afghanistan war vets return with post traumatic stress disorder or major depression. And just last year, the army had a record number of suicides among its personnel.

(on camera): You know, one thing you said to me in the past is that you wished you hadn't survived.


GUPTA: That was hard to hear.


GUPTA: Do you still feel that way?

VIDANA: No. I think at the time I was really depressed. And the world seemed really bleak. I'm fully aware that I struggle at times. But I feel like that's not a reason to stop living.

GUPTA: Do you see light at the end of the tunnel now? Things are brighter for you?

VIDANA: Yes. Things are brighter.

GUPTA (voice-over): So bright that hints of the old Jesus -- the one from before the war -- sometimes emerge.

(on camera): Would you go back to a war zone?


GUPTA: But you were shot.


GUPTA: All the things we talk about, the worst case scenarios.


GUPTA: And you experienced a lot of those.


GUPTA: You would still go back.

VIDANA: I think I would.


GUPTA: So, "I think I would." That's what he said there. You can see the human cost of fighting, but also the resilience.

And still ahead, another sort of survivor. Supermodel Niki Taylor. She's here to talk about the car crash that almost killed her, and also a new project for hers.

We'll be right back.


GUPTA: Supermodel Niki Taylor. She's much more than a pretty face. You know, an accident 12 years ago changed her world. It changed everything that she took for granted.

But, today, she's living proof that simple acts of kindness can save a life.


GUPTA (voice-over): The world first met supermodel Niki Taylor when she was a kid. She began modeling at age 14, and has graced the cover of more than 300 magazines.

But the story isn't just about international stardom. Taylor is proof that life can change in an instant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two cars involved.

GUPTA: A night out with friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They hit the telephone pole.

GUPTA: Taylor was in the passenger seat.

REPORTER: Niki Taylor was involved in a single car accident.

GUPTA: Her spine was fractured.

REPORTER: Ms. Taylor suffered internal injuries.

GUPTA: Her liver torn in half. Her heart stopped beating on the operating table twice. And she lost nearly 80 percent of her blood. In less than 24 hours, Taylor received more than a hundred life-saving blood transfusions.

Despite months in ICU and being given a one in 10 chance of survival, Taylor beat the odds. And every day, this mother of four said she thinks about the blood donors who rolled up their sleeves to give her a second chance at life.


GUPTA: You know, it's incredible to watch that and obviously to see you in person looking so healthy, so obviously alive, 12 years ago now.


GUPTA: Does it feel like 12 years ago?

TAYLOR: Yes. It does feel and I'm glad that I'm on this side of it. Let's put it that way.

GUPTA: Are you feeling well? I mean, do we have lingering effects from all of that?

TAYLOR: Nothing. Amazing.

GUPTA: Pain, anything?

TAYLOR: No. No pain.

GUPTA: Three months or so in the hospital.


GUPTA: Because of infection precautions you couldn't see your sons. They were 6 at the time. Is that right?

TAYLOR: They don't let anybody under 10 in the ICU unit. So it was three months. But my mom was so amazing.

GUPTA: Sent you videos.

TAYLOR: They put pictures because I had a trach, tubes in my lungs. And every -- you know, coming out of me. So I really couldn't move. But they put pictures on my ceiling of them.

GUPTA: When you finally did, you went to a rehab facility and eventually were allowed to leave. I mean, was there something that surprised you in terms of the challenges after that? Was it more emotional? More physical?

TAYLOR: I was just amazed how the body heals itself, I mean, for the liver to regenerate itself. I learned a lot and educated myself a lot. The human body is just amazing.

But you know, if it weren't for the blood I wouldn't be here. If it weren't for those donors I wouldn't be here.

GUPTA: A hundred blood transfusions.

TAYLOR: Over a hundred units.

GUPTA: Three hundred different donors is my understanding as well.


GUPTA: That's part of the reason you're back now.

TAYLOR: It is. Yes.

GUPTA: What do you say? Because, I mean, literally --

TAYLOR: Oh, my gosh.

GUPTA: They gave you a chance at life.

TAYLOR: Yes, I can want wait to hug and kiss them and just look in their eyes, because I have always wanted to know what their personalities are like, too. I'm serious. I pray for them and I think about them a lot.

GUPTA: How big a problem is it? Obviously enough people aren't donating blood. What's the shortfall?

TAYLOR: I don't think people are thinking about it. You know, World Blood Donor Day is in June. And it's this summer. So people's schedules are busy. They're just not thinking about going up and giving blood. But it's also a generational thing. You know, my mom is part of the gallon club, and my dad, and their parents before. It's almost missed a generation.

I think we need to talk about it more. We need to make it a family group thing. And, you know, there's a lot of people that need blood transfusion, you know, cancer patients. And, you know, again, like I said, you just never know when your life can change in a matter of minutes, even seconds that --

GUPTA: Right.

TAYLOR: -- you know, you're going to need blood.

GUPTA: You know, it's interesting, because I think the numbers, as you pointed out, they do seem to have dropped off in terms of people giving blood. So, they get to see you now. They know you. They see on television, now doing well, not in pain, healthy.

So, what do you say to people out there who teetering on the edge, thought about it but never done it?

TAYLOR: I think most people are scared. They're like, oh, that's a needle. You guys are taking blood from me.

It's not scary at all. It's just a pinch. And I have been on a dozen of blood drives. And it doesn't hurt at all. You have the best technicians. They will find a vein and you get cookies and milk and they just make you super comfortable.

They'll bring you a warm blanket. But it's very comfortable and it's very easy to do.

GUPTA: And they're really good, too, as you pointed out.

TAYLOR: They are. I know.


GUPTA: It's not easy.


GUPTA: A hundred transfusions. A lot. I'm so glad you're doing well. It's such a good thing, to thank those donors.

TAYLOR: It is.

GUPTA: It's going to do a lot to keep donations up in this country.

Thanks for joining us.

TAYLOR: I can't wait. Thanks for having me.

GUPTA: Thank you. So much appreciate it. Yes, you're welcome. And coming up, new ways to know if your knees are injury-prone and what you can do about it. Stay with us.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to warm up. Looking good, good.

BRIAN RUSSELL, ZEPHYR TECHNOLOGY GROUP: We're going to be putting this device on Sanjay and so we measure the heart rate and respiration rate in what we call the physiology.

GUPTA: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, this weekend on "THE NEXT LIST" -- how wireless health care could change your life.

DR. LESLIE SAXON, USC KECK SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: It's very much more sophisticated way to assess somebody's fitness real time and allow them to create a plan around their fitness.

NICK SWISHER, CLEVELAND INDIANS: Everything's getting more and more precise, which can help you to either, you know, elongate your career or make it the best you can be.

SAXON: I'm continually interested in and fascinated by how much athletes, patients, everybody wants their own data.

GUPTA: Meet Dr. Leslie Saxon, this Sunday on "THE NEXT LIST."



GUPTA: I watch college basketball and March Madness is in full swing. I can tell you as a doctor, you know, one thing I do watch -- I can't help myself, two things really -- are the knees. It's a common sore point for basketball players.

And this year, the leading candidate to be the top NBA draft pick, he went down with a torn ACL. That's Nerlens Noel, the freshman from Kentucky. He's expected to recover, but I'm pretty sure it pretty much killed their season.

Now, this can happen to anyone, though. Not just top athletes.

To join me to talk about it, form Chicago, is Dr. Timothy Hewett of Ohio State University.

Thanks, Doctor, for joining us. Let me get right to it because I think about this quite a bit. For an athlete, for anyone, to what extent can you prevent these sorts of injuries?

DR. TIMOTHY HEWETT, OHIO STATE WEXNER MEDICAL HOSPITAL: There's been multiple, randomized controlled trials demonstrating that you can reduce the risk of an ACL injury with pre-season neuromuscular training in the range of 60 percent to 65 percent. So, perhaps two- thirds of these injuries are preventable.

GUPTA: Yes, and I imagine they try to do these types of exercises. But what are those exercises? Are these things people can do at home?

HEWETT: Yes, they are. So, the exercises basically address four neuromuscular imbalances. We see ligament dominance, which can be observed by what you're saying earlier -- the knees and hips collapse in together. So the first step is to just educate the player to not allow their knees to collapse together and greater hip control.

Also, athletes tend to be quadriceps dominant, that big muscle on the front side of the thigh. So, what we do is turn on the posterior chain of the musculature, the glutes, hamstrings, the posterior calf complex.

The other problem is players tend to be leg dominant. They tend to favor one leg versus another.

GIUPTA: You say there are tests also to determine whether someone, an athlete or someone at home, is more at risk. What would they look for if they think, my knees are going to be a problem for me?

HEWETT: Basically there are four relatively simple tests. The first test is just to drop off a foot-high box go into a maximum vertical jump and just with a cell phone, just a simple video measure look at the distance between the knee joints just before landing and look at maximal collapse. If the distance is less than half of maximal collapse than it was before or just prior to landing you are at relative increased risk.

The second test is for quadriceps dominance and to look at the hamstrings and quadriceps. You can use a combination of a leg extension, leg curl twice in the gym. If you look at it if the hamstrings are less than 50 percent as strong as quadriceps you may be at increased risk.

The third test is to look at leg asymmetry. And that is we do X-hop test. So, basically, just put an X on the floor and hop between the quadrants in all directions -- forward, back, diagonally. And look at the relative number of touch downs one leg versus the other. Looking at those tests and if you are one or more deficient in any of those you may be at increased risk.

GUPTA: Last question, I guess more of my wife. She asks about this all the time. Women's knees, are they more at risk than men's?

HEWETT: Depending on which articles you read. Somewhere between two and 10 times more at risk of tearing their ACL, and interestingly also of having anterior knee pain than boys and men. And again what we have shown in women that these exercises are especially effective.

GUPTA: That's great advice. Dr. Timothy Hewett, thanks so much for joining us.

HEWETT: Thank you so much.


GUPTA: Energy drinks are loaded with stimulants. And we have told you there are health concerns about these. Well, this week, one company, Monster, said it is revamping its labels to include caffeine content, in part that's because they decided to market the drink as a plain old beverage, no longer as a dietary supplement.

A Monster has about 180 milligrams of caffeine in a 16 ounce can. For context, that's more than triple what's in a Coke. The big can, incidentally, 24 ounces, has about the same caffeine as a medium Starbucks.

We know that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, it can raise your blood pressure, can cause irregular heart rhythms as well. Some people are going to be much more susceptible. But most people are going to be just fine.

Monster already warns susceptible people to avoid the product. It also warns away children and pregnant women. Monster has been scrutinized recently because of reported deaths in people who drank it but the FDA hasn't said that any product was responsible for those deaths or any health issues for that matter.

We have top stories just minutes away.

And also, coming up, the danger in the medicine cabinet. I'm going to reveal the biggest source of trouble.


GUPTA: In "Chasing Life" today, a warning. A new report that finds that every eight minutes, a young child goes to the emergency room for poisoning. Usually from medicine in the home.

Dr. Jennifer Shu is a pediatrician here in Atlanta. She deals with these poisonings often and, full disclosure, she takes care of my kids as well.

Thanks for -- thanks for joining us.

GUPTA: You know, one of the things in the report I found very interesting, the biggest time of trouble is when guests are visiting the home. Is that your experience?

DR. JENNIFER SHU, PEDIATRICIAN: Right. So, your house could be perfectly child-proof, Sanjay, but if somebody comes in and they can wreak that balance. So, let's say I come and visit and I have a purse and I set it on the floor, or in a table or chair. A child could easily get into it.

GUPTA: Interesting.

SHU: So, you really have to remember to close everything up and put it up and out of the reach of the child. GUPTA: And you're often distracted when people come over.

SHU: You're glad to see people. And you're out of your routine.

GUPTA: Right.

Are there particular medicines that you worry about, the biggest dangers?

SHU: You know, I really say problems with things like ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin, and blood pressure pills.

GUPTA: Those are often the things that are in people's purses.

SHU: Very common. They can cause trouble.

GUPTA: So, what is the key do you think for to trying to keep the kids safer?

SHU: Remember up and away. So, if you're at home, put something on top of your refrigerator or store your medicines in a high cabinet. I do mine in the kitchen. Just not above the stove, because the heat can kind of ruin the medicine.

GUPTA: Yes. And as you say, don't fall out of the routine.

SHU: Yes.

GUPTA: Take it down, you always got to make sure to put it back up.

SHU: And put it right back. I mean, some things have a child resistant or child proof tops but they are not always child proof as I found out, unfortunately, with my daughter when she was 1. I set a sample bottom of ibuprofen, you know, too close to her. Within a minute she had it open and dripping from her mouth.

GUPTA: It's what mom takes. I want some of that as well.

SHU: Exactly, it was her ibuprofen. She knew she could have it. Exactly. It can happen in a second. Be very, very careful.

GUPTA: Yes, if you suspect poisoning. First of all, how many calls did you get? I guess you don't take those emergency calls necessarily --

SHU: We get a lot of calls. Our nurses get hundreds of calls per week. We definitely get some poisonings from medicine and other things. We usually recommend that they call the poison control center right away and there is a national number. And that's 800-222-1222. And I programmed it as a favorite on my phone so I can find it easily.

GUPTA: Yes, I know. It's like Google, if you put in poisoning, if you search that, that number pops up as well.

What do they -- I mean, is there something that they should do ahead of time or something that they just be mindful of even as they're making the calls?

SHU: You know, these days, we advise parents not to try to make their child vomit. In the past, we told people to use something like syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting. So, I would just say, don't cause your child to vomit. And actually talk to the poison center first and see what they recommend.

GUPTA: And just finally, just to give a little bit of peace to parents out there, who do worry about this, how often again in your experience does it turn out to be really problematic?

SHU: Most of the time, the child gets a tiny bit of something and all you need to do is observe them. So, usually, it's not anything dangerous or serious. But it has the potential of being very stressful.

GUPTA: Yes, don't blow it off by any means, but get some attention. But, hopefully, that will provide a little solace as well.

SHU: Exactly.

GUPTA: Thanks for joining us.

SHU: Thanks for having me.

GUPTA: This was "Chasing Life," you're only the second guest I have had on "Chasing Life". The first was my parents.

SHU: Well, I feel special. Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you, Jennifer Shu.

That's going to wrap things up for SGMD. Let us know what you think, You can also follow me on Twitter @DrSanjayGupta.

We have top stories in the CNN NEWSROOM right now.