Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Speaker's hope for a cure
Andrew Speaker is hoping today will mark the beginning of the end of a bizarre odyssey that began with his complaint of a sore rib last January and ballooned into a global health scare, with Speaker squarely in the middle.
Speaker is having surgery today at the University of Colorado Hospital, a surgery he hopes will cure his multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. (Full Story)
He has an area of infection about the size of a tennis ball in his lung.
The surgical team, lead by Dr. John Mitchell, will be using a technique called video assisted thoracic surgery, or VATS, to remove the upper lobe, of Speaker's right lung. They'll actually "suck out" the infected tissue. It will be fascinating to see the diseased tissue that turned Speaker's life upside down contained in a plastic bag.
As the only journalist invited to witness this surgery on perhaps the world's most famous TB patient, I'm struck by what a teaching moment this is.
Here are a few things of which I was reminded:
Many people don't realize that tuberculosis even exists in the United States. In fact, according to the CDC, there were 49 cases of extensively drug resistant TB in the U.S. between 1993 and 2006. And, there were 124 cases of MDR between 2004 and 2005. This isn't a condition relegated only to the Third World. What I'll witness today has value not just for Speaker, but for doctors all over the world as they struggle to treat a disease for which many drugs simply don't work.
I've performed countless operations but have never been in on one like this, where there are risks not only for the patient, but for the doctors and nurses as well. Every precaution, including specially outfitted masks, will be taken to keep everyone safe. There is little doubt from Andrew Speaker's doctors that his infection will be gone after today, but not his other troubles. A class-action lawsuit has been filed against him seeking more than $1 million dollars in damages.
So, now that we are starting to wind down this tale with a dramatic operation, do you think Andrew was at fault or do you believe health authorities mishandled the situation?
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
PREVIOUS POSTS• CNN's response to Michael Moore
• TB testing
• My conversation with Michael Moore
• A workout for your mind... and body!
• Tangible Fit Nation results!
• Should older pregnant moms get genes screened?
• Are boardwalk delicacies the next target?
• Farm bill will shape what we eat
• Marriage good for your health?
• Fit Buddies finale!