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Lessons Learned from Moore Tornado; Face Blindness Examined; Speculating on Jodi Arias's Mental State; Coke Trying to Contribute to Better Consumer Health

Aired May 25, 2013 - 16:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What a terrifying week in Oklahoma. The question is what are the lessons learned going forward. Today I'm going to be talking to a doctor whose fast thinking saved dozens of her patients from a tornado. And what to make of Jodi Arias. A psychologist who has worked on more than 60 death penalty cases flagged something for us. And he says her "performance", quote-unquote "was as strange as anything you've ever seen."

And Coca-Cola, they say they're in the healthy lifestyle game. The chairman and CEO agreed to answer my questions.

First up, Oklahoma. You know the destruction I saw there was as complete as anything you might imagine. And I have seen disasters all over the world. The damage here was just so widespread.

But although more than 2,000 people live in the exact path of the storm, 24 died; part of it was good warning. The alarms came in 16 minutes before the tornado hit and part of it was also knowing what to do. So I want you to watch this and maybe even grab a pencil and learn how now to protect yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jump in when you guys are ready.

GUPTA: Thirteen minutes: that's the average lead time you'd have if a tornado was headed your way.

There's obviously no completely safe option during a tornado. Your best bet is to get into the basement somewhere below ground level. But keep in mind that if you are there, you want to see what's on the floor above you as well. A refrigerator, a piece of heavy furniture could come crashing through the floor, so you want to be wary of that.

Also here in Moore, Oklahoma, not a lot of basements. Studies have actually shown that there is another very good option. Take a look over here. An interior room or a closet like that can be the best place to be as well. The house is gone here, but that closet, preserved, even the clothes inside of that.

Remember, just got 13 minutes. So find that safe place. Maybe grab a helmet or a bike helmet. Even throw some mattresses or a blanket over you to try to and protect the head.

One place you can't hide from a tornado is in your car. Tornado strength winds can pick up a one- to two-ton vehicle like this one and toss it around like you or I would a basketball.

Now you obviously don't want to be driving toward a tornado, but it's also a bad idea to be driving away from a tornado. It's hard to gauge the distance. If you must be driving, and the weather is clear, try driving at right angles to the tornado, perpendicular to get out of the path of the storm.

There's another misconception as well, which is that you should get out of your car and run underneath an overpass. What happens in a situation like this is the wind is actually funneled. It's even more powerful than the storm and there's also a lot of debris. And that debris can injure you.

Now if you are stuck outside as a tornado approaches, find a ditch or any place far away from potentially dangerous objects and vehicles and stay low.

Something else interesting that I learned, when tornadoes hit, typically half the injuries occur after the storm has already passed. As you might imagine, hazards range from downed and hidden power lines to unstable debris, sharp objects. And I can also tell you, no one is immune.

In fact, this week when I was talking to the fire chief in Moore, Oklahoma, he had just stepped on a nail himself that went right into his foot.

Something else, Moore Medical Center, I spent a lot of time there, take a look at this map. It's right in the middle of the map at the top there of that hurricane pathway. It's an important hospital in town. It was also squarely in the middle of that storm. And at the time of the storm, there were 30 patients there who had no choice but to hunker down and hope for the best.

Dr. Stephanie Barnhart was in charge of the ER when this all happened.


GUPTA (voice-over): On Monday afternoon, 34-year-old ER doctor Stephanie Barnhart had been watching the weather alerts. Growing up in Oklahoma, she knew tornado warnings were common for this time of year. But this one felt different to her.

GUPTA: When did you recognize there was a problem?

DR. STEPHANIE BARNHART, MOORE MEDICAL CENTER: Well, we had a very good alert system. The hospital was giving us these what they call Code Black warnings. So we knew that, one, that there was a possibility of a tornado. Then they gave us another alert that there was one. And then the final alert was one is nearby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's not on the ground, it's very close to it.

BARNHART: Yes, you could definitely see that this is a developing situation, a developing tornado. There you go. You see it? There you see it, now it's on the ground. We all had to make the decision to go back into another area of the hospital, which is what we call our fast track or clinic area. And that is in the center of the hospital. We knew that the TV -- there was a TV back there that we were watching and it was within a couple of miles and the power went out. And at that time we knew that it was -- we were hearing it and we knew that it was coming for us.

This is the Moore Medical Building. If you look at that, it looks like it has just been bombed out.

GUPTA (voice-over): The tornado hit Moore Medical head-on, and as it ripped through the building, Barnhart's team and the hospital's 30 patients used mattresses to protect themselves from falling debris.

GUPTA: Did you have any idea how bad this was going to be? I mean it literally ripped a floor off of your hospital.

BARNHART: Even until now when I got home, like I still didn't even have any, you know, I had no idea what it was like. Not until we stepped out of the hospital, that I even saw, you know, across the way was a bowling alley that was to pieces.

GUPTA (voice-over): Because of Barnhart's quick thinking, not a single person was hurt. And seeing the extensive damage here, that's hard to believe.

BARNHART: I just can't believe we walked out.

GUPTA (voice-over): People have written to thank Barnhart. But she says she doesn't feel like she deserves the credit.

GUPTA: Everyone keeps asking when they look at these images, how is it possible that nobody got hurt in there?

BARNHART: Someone had to make the decision to move. And I guess that was me. But I don't want to take any credit for this by any means. Like I know that you know, it was God that was with us and we were protected.

When I walk out of that place where we were, it was boarded by two sets of double doors. And one ceiling tile was it that was damaged. And then, you know, we walk out and I see the rest of the hospital. I'm just -- I'm amazed. I can't even feel just how blessed we are that we walked out.


GUPTA: And to find out what you can do to help victims of the Oklahoma tornado, log on to

Now also this week you may have seen this: actor Brad Pitt told "Esquire" magazine that he's so terrible at remembering faces that he wants to be tested to see if, in fact, he has a condition known as face blindness. This may sound odd to you, but I can tell you it's a real disorder. I fact, I had the chance to explore this with a famous neurologist, Dr. Oliver Sacks, who himself suffers from severe face blindness.


GUPTA (voice-over): Oliver Sacks may be a world-famous neurologist. But there's one simple thing, something important, something most of us take for granted that he can barely do at all, that's to recognize a face, even a famous one.

DR. OLIVER SACKS, NEUROLOGIST: This one. Soft focus. The owner of this face is looking tough. But I don't know who it is.

Sometimes I fail to recognize myself.

GUPTA: Even yourself?

SACKS: Yes, I have occasionally started apologizing to a clumsy bearded man, only to realize that this is a mirror.

GUPTA (voice-over): He's face-blind. It's a rare and incurable condition that he's had since birth. Sacks suspects it's genetic, since his brother suffers from the same condition. He can see each facial feature just fine, but putting it all together, that's the problem.

GUPTA: How about this picture?

SACKS: That is very beautiful, a model or an actress. Well, I suppose one thinks of Marilyn Monroe.

GUPTA: You're looking at me right now. Can you describe what you're seeing?

SACKS: You have very beautiful white teeth. So I would recognize you especially by your teeth.

GUPTA (voice-over): You see, he finds a way, a way to adapt.

SACKS: I mean now I've outed myself about face blindness. It makes it easier.

GUPTA: Would you want to be cured of this if you could?

SACKS: I think so. I think if I was suddenly presented with thousands of familiar, potentially familiar faces, I think this might overwhelm me.


GUPTA: Let me give you a quick word of explanation. Let me show you on this brain model. This is the front of the brain over here and this is the back of the brain. What happens is the visual system of the brain begins here in the back called the occipital lobe.

That collects all sorts of various pieces of visual information and then sends it to a different region, the parietal part of the brain, where those pieces have to be turned into a coherent whole. In face blindness something goes wrong with that process of putting it all together.

Hope that makes sense.

Next up, another strange turn in the trial of Jodi Arias. What her statements to the court may say about her mental state.


JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED MURDERER: My hair was past my waist and I donated it to Locks of Love. If I'm allowed to live in prison I will continue to donate to that organization for the rest of my life.

I've received many requests from women to teach them Spanish or American sign language. If I'm sentenced to life, I will be able to share my knowledge of those subjects with them. I'd like to implement a recycling program. I can help other women become literate so that they, too, can add that dimension to their lives.


GUPTA: That's Jodi Arias, of course, essentially pleading for her life. She was asking the jury to sentence her to life in prison instead of death. As you, I'm sure you know, she was convicted this month of murdering her boyfriend, Travis Alexander.

Now, Xavier Amador is a clinical psychologist. He's worked on more than 60 death penalty cases.

Welcome back to the show, Xavier. Thanks for joining us.


GUPTA: We haven't talked about Jodi Arias on this program. But I got to tell you, that statement was just so striking. It caught my attention. I know it caught yours as well.

You've worked with a lot of defendants who are essentially in this position, begging for their lives. She seems off. I mean, I don't know what to make of it. What did you think? What were your impressions?

AMADOR: Everything about the death penalty phase of this trial seems very off, given my experience working on over 50 death penalty cases. First of all, you rarely, rarely see a defendant present their case as a witness, which is what's happened here.

You'll hear statements of remorse, statements of taking responsibility and so on, and even of asking for forgiveness that are very well thought out and worked on together with the defense attorneys.

But in this case, Jodi Arias obviously has had a very tumultuous relationship with her defense attorneys. I've never seen anything like this.

GUPTA: You're saying, suggesting her lawyers couldn't stop her. They have this tumultuous relationship.

But you also expect in some part during this trial that other people would have testified as well on her behalf, friends, family, people who knew her?

AMADOR: Sure. That's what typically happens. I mean -- I've been in trials where schoolteachers from third grade will testify, aunts, uncles, parents. All of that may have indeed been on the table. But she clearly is, defense attorneys might say a difficult client to control.

GUPTA: Yes, I want to get your impression of what you mean by off. But let me ask you this. You know just watching this again. Is it possible that she's sort of -- to use the adage -- crazy like a fox, that she's somehow trying to manipulate the court or the jury? This is sort of an act or even just trying to get attention?

AMADOR: If the prosecution expert is correct, and she has a borderline personality disorder, in some ways there's an immaturity at an emotional level, a kind of self -- a sense of self-worth that's just gone. So you see these frantic attempts for attention.

Your comment about attention, that may in fact have been driving her motivation to do this more than anything else, that and all the media interviews she has given, which I can assure you there's not a defense attorney I have ever worked with, who would encourage a client facing the death penalty to do media interviews.

So needing attention and if, in fact, she does have this personality disorder, that may be driving a lot of this.


GUPTA: That's an actual mental illness, when you talk about borderline personality disorder. You're very good about not diagnosing people from afar. But what did you think of that? Is this what this is?

AMADOR: If we rely on the prosecution expert's diagnosis, borderline personality disorder affects about 3 million Americans. The signs start in adolescence. We don't really know the cause, Sanjay. There are really a great number of studies in the last decade, suggesting some neurobiological differences but also trauma in childhood.

And if that's in her history, trauma at an early age in childhood, that didn't come out, certainly in her statement. Maybe there's something there that she didn't want to have come out.

GUPTA: That's fascinating. Obviously we're going to stay tuned. A lot of people are paying attention to it.

Appreciate having you on. Always learn something. Thank you.

And Coca-Cola is under fire for selling junk food; you've heard this before. They say they're now going to be a leader in healthy living. The chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola joins me next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: We talk a lot about the obesity epidemic on this program. Today we're going to hear from the chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, who just launched what he calls global commitments to fight obesity. I want to share a few of them with you.

It's a pledge, essentially; they pledge to offer low and no-calorie drinks in every market where Coke is sold, also provide nutritional information, including calorie counts on every package, support physical activity programs and also they say they're going to market responsibly, which means no ads specifically aimed at children under 12 anywhere in the world.

The head of Coke, Muhtar Kent, made that announcement right here in Atlanta alongside the mayor and the governor.

GUPTA: What is driving this primarily, would you say, Mr. Kent?

Is this fundamentally about the health of people all over the world?

Or is this -- I mean this is still a corporation, how do you balance the bottom line with public health?

MUHTAR KENT, CEO, COCA-COLA: Sanjay, what is driving this is the fact that we all know obesity is a complicated global societal problem and issue. And we in Coca-Cola have led for 127 years; it is effectively our 127th birthday, we're 127 years young today.

And we want to lead. We want to offer an invitation also to partners who want to come and partner with us in helping to become a part of the solution for this very complicated and very important societal issue and challenge.

GUPTA: Do we have enough science, Mr. Kent, to help guide some of these decisions in terms of what is a healthy amount of activity, lifestyle, what is the right diet? How do you sort of decide what you're going to recommend around the world, and based on what science?

KENT: Well, I think there is, naturally, important gains to be made through better evidence-based science. No question about that. I think the more we have of evidence-based science on this matter, the better for all of us.

However, there is one simple fact and that is, energy balance, amount of calories people consume and amount of calories they spend. And I think we all know that taking in calories, consuming calories is more fun than spending calories. And therefore, what this -- all of this intends to do a little bit is to make spending calories also a little bit of fun, a little bit of challenge, fun, for communities around the world.

We talk a lot about the low and no-calorie options that Coke offers and there's plenty of them. I'm curious, when we look forward, maybe 10 years, 15 years from now, will Coke in the red can, the iconic Coke, do you think that product is going to change at all? There are some who say look, sugar calories are just different than other calories. All calories are not the same and, therefore, these sugary drinks have to change.

Do you think Coke will change?

KENT: I think the important thing to understand is that all calories count. And I think the important thing to understand is that we have -- we currently offer 3,500 products, those with calories, those with low amount of calories and those with no calories.

And there is a place for all our beverages in an active, healthy lifestyle, that has a sensible diet, that has regular exercise, and also that has a lifestyle that is associated with active, healthy living.

GUPTA: As you know, Mr. Kent, we have a shared interest in trying to make America and the world a healthier place, so hopefully we'll be able to keep track of the progress. Thank you so much for joining us.

KENT: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity, Sanjay, thank you.

GUPTA: Up next, fighting heart disease with stem cells. The future is coming. We've got one man's life's work.


GUPTA: Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and in many places around the world. Heart failure has been considered irreversible, but recently there have been some breakthrough trials that use stem cells. And they may have turned that notion on its head.

A key part of this whole thing is Dr. Roberto Bolli, he's a cardiologist, he was born in Italy and he found his life's work right here in the United States.



DR. ROBERTO BOLLI, CARDIOLOGIST: The problem with the heart attack is that a certain division of the heart dies because of lack of oxygen and is replaced by a scar. They develop heart failure due to the loss of muscle.

I was taught in medical school and everybody else was taught until recently, well, that's too bad. We cannot regenerate.

Scipio (ph) was the first trial ever of cardiac stem cells in patients. What we found was that already at four months after infusing these stem cells, there was a remarkable improvement in the function of the heart.

For the first time, we have a therapy whose goal is not damage control, but elimination of damage, replacement of the scar with new cardiac muscle. I think the stem cell revolution is going to produce a dramatic change in the way we practice medicine. I think it's the biggest revolution in medicine over our lifetime and it really opens up a new, exciting therapy that could revolutionize cardiovascular medicine.


GUPTA: You hear the phrase "time equals brain" when it comes to recognizing and treating strokes. Basically the same is true of heart attacks as well.

Here's some symptoms to look out for. Chest pain, that is going to be the most obvious and it can radiate to your left arm or your neck and jaw. But remember not every heart attack causes chest pain and that's especially true of women.

Other signs, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, feeling very sweaty for no reason, even having sharp pains in your back. One thing to also keep in mind, these symptoms can come on very quickly.

If there's any doubt, call 9-1-1 or go to an ER immediately. Don't be embarrassed to do so. The American Heart Association also recommends chewing a non-coated adult aspirin as well. It could very well mean the difference between life and death.

That's going to wrap things up for SGMD today. But stay contacted with me at Let's keep the conversation going on Twitter @DrSanjayGupta.

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