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How Bombing Amputees Will Learn to Walk Again; Boston Bombing Victim Speaks

Aired April 27, 2013 - 16:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Hey, there. And thanks for joining us. I want to begin today with the very latest on the Boston bombings.

Now, much of the attention has turned to the surviving suspect and on Thursday, we learned that he was moved out of the hospital and in to a jail facility. But you know, we don't want to forget the people who were hurt that day. At least a dozen of the victims had limbs amputated. We're going to get a sense of what their new normal was going to be like.

So, I paid a visit to one of the best facilities in the country. It's called Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.


GUPTA (voice-over): It takes time. About six weeks post-surgery for a new amputate to take this first step.

(on camera): So, one of the most important things is that this wound around the amputation has to heal up completely, this incision line that you see over here. And after that is done, they actually have to shape the remaining area of the leg and then actually put something on to sort of shrink those tissues so the prosthetic can go on.

(voice-over): Every patient that suffers an amputation goes through tailored therapy to learn how to use their new limbs.

Peter Coolidge (ph), who lost his leg due to complications of diabetes, had his prosthetic leg less than two weeks.

(on camera): The signs of progress can be small sometimes. But, look, no hands are he was using one hand earlier. Two hands before that.

Let me show you something else to come around and take a look. When you actually look specifically what's happening with his feet over here, stepping up with his good leg over here. But look what's happening with the prosthetic. You get the sort of expected -- what you want, the heel to toe sort of rock. That doesn't come naturally, that's something Pete really has to practice.

(voice-over): Surprisingly, every day tasks, like making coffee, it's part of therapy, as well.

(on camera): He's not holding on to anything right now. He's able to actually keep his balance on his own. He's trusting his leg. He's distracted not thinking about that and he's got a lot of balance that he's testing and successfully testing by actually moving around the kitchen here.

So he's never done this before. I mean, take a look, an uneven surface. He's got to essentially bend the knees -- a lot harder than it looks for someone with a brand new prosthetic device.

Pretty good, Pete.

(voice-over): The first month of therapy is all about the basics for lower limb amputees. Taking those first steps to learn to live independently.

(on camera): Some people say, look, this is going to be a sort of new normal for these patients. But you say it's actually more of just normal.

DR. BRUCE POMERANZ, KESSLER INSTITUTE FOR REHABILITATION: Once they look back on this situation, you know, a year from now, two years from now, you know, that's -- yes, this will be a nightmare and, yes, there's a loss that's permanent. But they have every reason to expect that they're going to be able to go on and live the same happy, satisfied lives.

GUPTA (voice-over): In fact, thanks to advanced prosthetic technology, most amputees go on to not only leave a normal life, but to push themselves, even beyond previous expectations.

POMERANZ: The future is really much brighter than they could probably imagine at this point in time, but I think for the people in Boston, they will have that experience.


GUPTA: Now, you know, if there's one person to know about that road that lies ahead, it's Hugh Herr. He's an athlete-turned- inventor. He's based at MIT, which is just a few miles from the finish line when those bombs went off.

And he builds some of the most advanced prosthetics in the world. He knows the way of the modern technology to help these patients and I will tell you, he knows this in part because he's done it himself.


HUGH HERR, DIRECTOR, BIOMECHATRONICS GROUP, MIT MEDIA LAB: My name is Hugh Herr. I'm a professor at MIT. We develop robots that attach to the body that help people move again.

GUTPA (voice-over): Here at his playground at MIT's famous Media Lab, Hugh Herr designs advanced prosthetic limbs with amazing capabilities. In rehab medicine, no one has done more to bring the future to the here and now.

As you can see, Hugh has a personal stake in this work. Back when he was a kid, all he wanted to do was climb mountains.

HERR: By the age of 12, 13, I was considered a child prodigy in climbing. I was climbing walls that had never been climbed before.

GUPTA: But then at age 17 --

HERR: In 1982, I was mountain climbing and we got struck by a tremendous blizzard. And what we intended to be a single day outing turned into a four-day mountaineering (INAUDIBLE).

I suffered severe frostbite to my lower limbs. And after months of effort, my medical team gave up the fight to save my biological limbs.

GUPTA (on camera): So, it's obviously a deeply personal quest for you, as well.

HERR: Yes. It's funny because I was a terrible high school student. At best I got C's. I often got F's.

And then my accident happened when I was 17 and just inspired me to begin developing prosthetic limbs for myself and for other people.

GUPTA (voice-over): Losing both legs, it's a lot for anyone to overcome. But with Hugh, it lit a fire.

HERR: Whenever I sprint up stairs with my bionic legs, I just -- when I get to the top, I giggle. I mean, I'm -- I grew up with the television show "The Bionic Man and Woman," "$6 Million Man". So, it's -- when I'm running at steps and I hear the motors going -- it's hysterical.

GUPTA: One of his first designs: adjustable legs, so he could do things on the mountain that used to be impossible. At MIT, this is how he and his team like to work -- first, they break down a real human movement. Then find a way to copy it with better and better machinery. His latest creation is a bionic ankle, the BIOM.

HERR: The human ankle is a turbo charged. It gives so much energy as you're walking and running and conventional prosthesis just lack that energy. So, I wanted to have an invention that really propels the amputee forward and allows them to walk with less energy and less pain.

GUPTA: To help me understand it better, he introduced Shawn Brown (ph) who lost a foot in an industrial accident 20 years ago. And he uses the BIOM himself.

HERR: His gait is normal. It's normal.

GUPTA: And Hugh says even this is primitive compared to what we'll see in years to come. HERR: I'm often asked would I wish the legs back. Now, I say, absolutely not. My bionic limbs are part of my creation. They become part of my identity. As my biological body ages, my artificial limbs get better and better. They're in a sense immortal.


GUPTA: I'll tell you, Hugh has also set up a Web site where people can donate to his nonprofit. It's called Donations that could help these amputees, it could help them to ride bikes again, dance, swim, whatever it is that they're hoping to do.

Also coming up, a woman that was hurt in the bombing explains the last-minute decision that probably saved her life. Stay with us.


GUPTA: You know, one thing that really comes through is the resilience of the people who are there near that marathon finish line.

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, she was just a few steps from that second bomb. And then it was an explosion in her case that actually ripped off her foot. She lost a lot of flood, but some quick thinking clearly saved her life. And she told CNN's Anderson Cooper what happened right after the bomb went off.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: How far away was the bomb? Do you know?

ADAM DAVIS, INJURED IN BOMBING: My guess it would have been about five feet.

COOPER: Five feet?


COOPER: Did you lose consciousness?

HASLET-DAVIS: I don't think we did.


HASLET-DAVIS: I remember everything, so if we did, it was for a matter of seconds.

COOPER: You remember being blown through the air?


COOPER: What happened then?

HASLET-DAVIS: I landed and sort of closed my eyes and was underneath Adam and kind of covering my head and my face. It was very gray and quiet. Gray smoke and ashes and a lot of debris falling, and I remember telling Adam, "Oh my gosh, I'm alive." And then he said, "I'm OK. I'm OK. Are you OK? Oh my gosh, are you OK?" And I said, "I think we're OK. I couldn't believe that we survived and that we weren't hurt at all and I didn't feel any pain." I had no idea what was -- what had happened.

And then, I sat up and I tried to -- he said, "We have to get out of here" or something like that. I sat up and tried to move and I said, "Oh my gosh, my foot. There's something wrong with my foot." And he lifted up my leg. And we just lost it. Adam was -- had a lot of blood all over his pants. It was hard to tell his injuries and my injuries because of the amount of blood everywhere. But I know he was hurt, as well.

COOPER: What did you do then when you realized what had happened to your foot?

HASLET-DAVIS: Just -- went in to survival mode. I went into -- I've got to do something about this. I can't lose my foot.

COOPER: That was in your mind?

HASLET-DAVIS: Yes. I can't lose my foot. I've got to get it somewhere safe and clean and I've got to get something wrapped and it. And then I grabbed the door and crawled in to Forum dragging blood and asked a couple of people for help and finally received it.

Got a couple people to do a tourniquet. And then Adam was shortly behind me. I wanted to stay with him, but my brain was just on I've to get somewhere clean. I'm losing so much blood.

COOPER: What did you do?

DAVIS: I followed behind her. She jump kicked me, too. It's like, oh, yes, we've got to get somewhere where we can lay down a little smarter, where we could get a tourniquet around her leg. You know, start doing little basic, like, shock triage stuff, yes. So we crawled in to Forum and from there it was -- I remember her legs were over mine. I had one belt and another guy with another belt and we were just -- just as much as I could and leaning back and trying to put as much pressure with the belt.

COOPER: When did you realize the full extent of the injury?

HASLET-DAVIS: I think when we were sitting there in Forum, I realized how bad it was, and Adam and I kept looking at each other and we were bouncing between trying to do the tourniquet faster and this maybe our last minutes together, I love you, and I'm so sorry for everything that's ever happened -- and hard not to get emotional thinking about it, but we were tied between safety and helping each other and helping his injuries, also. And saying what we needed to say to each other.

COOPER: In case you didn't make it.

HASLET-DAVIS: In case, we didn't make it, why. COOPER: Tying the tourniquets on the scene, that probably saved you.

HASLET-DAVIS: It probably did. I'm thankful for Adam for helping obviously. I thank him a lot.

COOPER: When did you realize you didn't have --

HASLET-DAVIS: I was -- I woke up and my parents were there and hugged them and kissed them and I said, mom, can you help me? I feel like my foot is asleep and my ankle is falling off of the pillow and my foot is half on. And I realized that now that was phantom pain because he looked to me and said, "Adrienne, you don't have a foot. Your foot is gone." And I just lost it. It's really hard to hear.

COOPER: You're determined to dance again, though.


COOPER: Dancing is really important to you.

HASLET-DAVIS: It is so important to me. It's my life.


GUPTA: You know, so many people have been inspired by Haslet- Davis' determination to dance again, as you heard there. They have set up a fund to help with that recovery and it's already raised more than $200,000.

Coming up now, the former head of the CDC-turned-medical reporter colleague in a way. He is from ABC News. Dr. Richard Besser stops by, next.


GUPTA: The doctor you're about to meet has a unique perspective on the headlines. A short while ago I talked to Dr. Besser. He's chief health and medical editor for ABC News. But before that, he was acting director of the CDC. And now, he's written a book. It's called "Tell Me the Truth, Doctor."


GUPTA: You're the chief health and medical correspondent for ABC, obviously. But you were the acting director of the CDC. I think the first time that you and I really started talking to one another.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, ABC NEWS: Yes, we talked a lot in those days.

GUPTA: Yes. And you probably get a lot of questions about infectious disease still. I mean, I think one of the first things you and I talked a lot about was just H1N1 at the time. And I'm curious because of your perspective when you hear about recent outbreaks. How concerned do you get, how concerned should we all be about what's happening now?

BESSER: I think the public health community has to be very concerned and pay attention to this. This H7N9 virus, it's called a bird flu virus, and they're having trouble finding in it a lot of birds. That's worrisome.

When I talked to people at CDC, they see changes in this virus which put it on the path to being able to go person to person and as you know that's what you worry about for a strain with pandemic potential.

So I'm glad they're jumping on this. I'm glad CDC is working on vaccines and diagnostic kits, because you never know at this point which virus is going to make that turn and become very dangerous and which one is just going to go away.

GUPTA: So things can be lethal, they can kill people easily. Transmissible is the other thing where they actually spread from person to person and, in fact, combination of this that worries you the most?

BESSER: Yes. And not having any immunity in the population. So if it's -- if it's a new strain that people haven't seen before, then you run that risk, if you introduce it, it's going to spread like wildfire and that's what you worry about, if it makes that change so it's transmissible. That's the big concern.

GUPTA: That's the thing that people who are paying attention to this should really sort of keep there ears open for if we hear that the transmissibility --

BESSER: That's right.

I mean, people's day to day lives now in America, no. But travelers who are going to China? Yes. They have to pay attention and doctors need to ask about travel. If someone's sick, where have you been?

It's a simple question.

GUPTA: Are you still surprised by things? I mean, you know, medicine is a constantly evolving field. Like we said, we are always doing our homework. Things change.


GUPTA: Advice changes as a result. How much does that affect how you report, how you practice?

BESSER: One of the things that I try to communicate is that the science changes, and with it, you really do want to see a change in recommendations. You know, it's one of the things during H1N1, the recommendations of what we're telling people to do to protect their health changed as we got more information. That's true with medicine across the board. GUPTA: You talk about a couple of issues which, you know, again as medical reporters, we talk about all the time. But cell phones and brain cancer specifically. Do you really think that this could be a problem? It may not just to recognize it yet.

BESSER: Right. I don't think so. You know? I think that the data I see so far makes me feel pretty comfortable that cell phones do not cause cancer.

But there are simple things to do if you're concerned. You know? My kids, they say they're talking to friends but when they say talking, they really mean texting. And so, that's not putting a cell phone up next to their head. I'm encouraging that as a way of communications. One ay to go, speakerphone is another way to go.

It's important to continue to study children. This is the first generation that's grown up with cell phones. But the real concern I have with cell phones is cell phones in cars and I wish there was as much concern expressed about. You know, the data show that using a cell phone in the cars. And I wish there was this much concern expressed about that. You know, the data show that using a cell phone when you're in a car is equivalent to driving drunk, and it's a hard thing to do but locking it in the glove compartment can remove the temptation and can remove a really -- a real public health risk.

GUPTA: I don't know if you've seen the apps over a certain speed, it disables your cell phone.

BESSER: I love that.

GUPTA: Can't text or --


GUPTA: And send a message back saying Dr. Besser is driving right now, he will call you back.

Final question, that now you're on the other side of things --


GUPTA: -- because you had to deal with us pesky reporters when you're acting director of the CDC --


GUPTA: -- what do you think about how dealing with reporters now, or dealing with -- getting the questions answered now?

BESSER: It's pretty wild. I spend a lot of time talking to public health people about what an incredible opportunity it is any time a reporter calls. That it's a chance to get a message out. Every day, public health is trying to launch campaigns.

And as reporters we're not interested unless it's tied to the news. Well, if we're calling because there's a news hook, that should be in a sense a public health emergency of now's a chance to get that message out there -- and I hit the same, you know, roadblocks that I used to put up on the other side. It's interesting.


GUPTA: That's Dr. Richard Besser. And again, the book is called, "Tell Me the Truth, Doctor." Now, as Richard points out in part, medicine is always changing pretty quickly and with that in mind, we're kicking off a new series on the show today. You know, over the coming weeks, I'm going to be introducing you to medical innovators who are going to talk about their life's work. These are men and women who drive the change. They probably not going to recognize every face, but you will recognize what they have all done.

Our very first profile is Dr. Vincent Gott. He's cardiac surgeon for more than 40 years now, who is part of the team that performed the first open-heart surgery on a living heart.


DR. VINCENT GOTT, DEVELOPED FIRST PACEMAKER: Looking back, I would say that I was one of the luckiest young boys to come out of Wichita, Kansas.

My name is Vincent Gott and I was one of the first researchers in to the development of a pacemaker.

I was in the operating room at the time the world's first open- heart operation was carried out in 1954. I was an intern when I observed the Dr. C. Walton Lillehei carry out the first cross circulation case.

I made an illustration of that first operation. At least of the defect in the little boy's heart. Put it in the patient's chart. Little did I know -- they didn't know me and but seeing that illustration he invited me in to his lab and that's when the pacemaker was developed and just a great opportunity for me.

It was an amazing time and an amazing procedure, but I had no idea where it would take us over the next 60 years. Well, I spent my life doing cardiac surgery, and how fortunate I was to have been there on day one as an observer.


GUPTA: And we got a check of your top stories just minutes away, and I'll be right back with more on the Boston marathon bombings as well.

Stay with us.


GUPTA: The cover of "Boston" magazine this week and says so much. Take a look. Pairs and pairs of running shoes worn by runners of the Boston marathon and these brightly colored shoes make almost a joyous picture. It's a heartfelt tribute from the owners to chasing life, overcoming obstacles and challenging themselves.

And, you know, I have worn shoes like these and I remember transporting me to a place where I can be alone with my thoughts and my dreams, it's a special place. So, this week, we salute the courage, the compassion, the conviction of all these Bostonians who have risen above all this heartache and continue to support one another chasing life.

That's going to do it for SGMD.

Time for a check of your top stories making news right now.