Friday, April 20, 2007
Introducing the Fit Buddies!
As Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes his 2007 Fit Nation Tour on the road, you can follow the progress of three CNN employees who are taking on the challenge of losing weight. Do you struggle with your weight? Does your hectic lifestyle contribute to your difficulties? Then you share something with our Fit Buddies. (More info)

A busy reporter, a medical producer traveling with the Fit Nation Tour, and the director of coverage in CNN's global newsroom in Atlanta work long hours, travel a great deal and rarely have time to get to the gym. Fitness trainer Robert Dothard has agreed to take a challenge of his own - get the Fit Buddies fit! Read about their successes and pitfalls weekly here on the "Paging Dr. Gupta" blog. (Watch Video)

CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera
The moment had finally arrived. After a few weeks of talking about joining this program, I finally had a chance to meet our trainer, Robert Dothard.

The plan was simple. We would do my first fitness assessment, have dinner and then work out.

Four hours later, violent storms and tornadoes started rolling through Dallas.

Robert was ready for dinner, and of course, I was 30 minutes late.

This is my life. Breaking news usually dismantles the best laid plans. But I love what I do, and I want to be successful and healthy chasing news and telling stories. I'm traveling this week too, but I've managed to work out every day!

Notable this week:

Best Meal: Grilled tilapia on a bed of rice with green beans and broccoli. Oh, and a great dinner roll.

Worst Meal: Holding two crying babies, eating a slice of cheese pizza, some sesame sticks and a protein bar.

Biggest struggle: Finding a consistent time of day to work out.

Best workout: First workout lifting weights with Robert. I haven't done that in years and it felt great to get those muscles burning again.

CNN Domestic director of coverage Stacia Deshishku
Look up Type A in the dictionary and you'll probably find my picture. Let the games begin! My competitive juices are flowing. In a million years I never imagined I would competitively exercise and diet!

It's been a great week. I got my husband on the fitness train too. He agreed to exercise with me. I really need the support.

Though my mind has been cheering me on this week, my body has been screaming back at me - a guttural scream. I've been using many long-dormant muscles. I can really feel the burn. I have found myself walking to the farthest restroom at work to get those extra steps in. I have taken the stairs A LOT more than normal. It has really become a mind game. May the best woman win!

Notable this week:

Best Meal: Sashimi - minus the rice

Worst Meal: Enchiladas and margaritas on Saturday night

Biggest Struggle: Staying away from "office" food!

Best workout: Tuesday - because I felt so guilty about missing Monday night's session due to breaking news at Virginia Tech

CNN Medical News producer Matt Sloane
Everything was going great… until I got on that plane to Virginia Tech.

I will say, had I taken this breaking news trip a few weeks ago, I would have eaten more than my fair share of the pizza we ordered, and I would have ordered a big steak at the saloon. What really bothered me was that I had to miss all my workouts!

By far, the thing that’s helped me the most is being accountable for what I eat. I was ashamed to write in my food diary that I had eaten pizza Tuesday night, but the fact is, I ate it... so I wrote it down.

The good news is, I'm back on track. If you fall off the wagon, that's no an excuse to throw in the towel! Get back on the wagon!

Notable this week:

Best Meal: Grilled salmon, brown rice and broccoli

Worst Meal: Pizza during breaking news

Biggest Struggle: Getting to my workouts!

Best Workout: Running ¾ mile! I haven't run since high school!

Fitness trainer Robert Dothard
I think people are far too hard on themselves, and we all seem to have very busy lives. No it's not just a CNN thing, but if you are careful with what you eat, and you try to be as active as your schedule will allow, that's always a good start!

Matt already had a challenge this week: being sent to the tragic Virginia Tech shootings. He has continued to report his food log to me, and he has managed some exercise on the road, but now that he is back in Atlanta, he can expect a "butt kicking" workout.

Stacia is simply amazing to me. She keeps more plates spinning than anyone I have worked with in a long time. I don't care if I have to sleep on the floor of their home, or follow Stacia around the CNN Center, we are going to reach her goals!

Not even the fact that we are training long distance is going to stop Ed from reaching what I feel will be the most drastic and noticeable changes of all three participants. And guess what: It is something we all can do. TAKE ACTION!

For years I have told people starting a fitness program to follow AAA: assess, accept, and act!

I will say, Ed has taken more action than Matt and Stacia, so that's my way to let everyone know it's GAME ON!

I know there are many people who have the same challenges we will face and overcome, and if we can help you, then I know we're truly on our way to building a Fit Nation!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Life or death in 30 seconds
Yesterday, I met Matt Green and Matt Lewis, president and vice president of Virginia Tech Rescue Squad - volunteer, student EMTs as I once was.

They both put on their game faces as we approached with the camera.

"You guys saw things that were just awful," Dr. Sanjay Gupta told them. 'What was going through your minds?"

"This is what we train for," they told us. 'We just focused on one patient at a time."
Certainly a very humble account of what happened.

In my calls to area EMS squads in Blacksburg, they all told me the same thing - the campus rescue squad deserved all the credit. They took charge immediately and did an incredible job.

Approaching a scene as dangerous and gruesome as this, an EMT must first do two things: Stay out of harms way, and establish incident command with police and firefighters.

The next and most difficult task: triage. An EMT's best friend in this situation is protocol.

"If you can get up and walk out, do that now," you scream to the injured. Those who can walk out get tagged "green." They probably have bumps and bruises, maybe even broken bones, but they will be fine. They walk out to awaiting medical staff.

That's the easy part. Triaging the rest of the injured victims requires a life-or-death decision every 30 seconds.

The first question you ask yourself with each patient: Are they breathing? No? Can you fix that easily by repositioning the head? If not, you tag that patient "black" - a grim reminder of what you're dealing with.

The truth is, your best shot at saving the most people is to let those who truly don't have a chance of surviving die, and devote your resources to those who can be saved. Sounds reasonable on paper, but a very difficult decision to make in real life - especially in 30 seconds.

The next group: red. These are the most critical patients. After a few quick stabilizing measures, the "reds" go right to awaiting ambulances and helicopters. With luck, a life saved.

Next come the "yellows." These patients are not as serious as the reds, but if they don't get care soon, they may be headed for the red zone.

At Virginia Tech, rescuers triaged dozens of victims in only a few minutes - no easy task for the most seasoned medic, and certainly not for these students.

These are very difficult times for the Virginia Tech community, but these rescuers can rest assured that they did everything they could.

Protocols, years of training and gut-wrenchinging decisions helped save lives Monday. But the decisions of that day are likely to stay with Matt Green, Matt Lewis and their fellow rescuers for the rest of their lives.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Questions from Blacksburg
It just hit me. After nearly 24 hours of confusion, chaos and charging hard to get here and report, the gravity of what happened at Virginia Tech is starting to sink in. Journalists are not supposed to show their emotions, but in this case, how can you not? 32 innocent lives, snuffed out in fit of rage. Sisters, sons, sweathearts. Gone. What a waste.

I've done stories with ER docs about what happens in times of crisis. It's not chaos as is often portrayed on TV. It's actually more like an intricate dance. Everyone knows his or her part. Folks we've talked to say the emergency response here was top notch. I am sure the families and friends of the survivors are grateful to know that.

I was in Oregon in 1998 when Kip Kinkel, then 15, killed his parents and then opened fire at his school. At the time I couldn't help but wonder, why do people commit such horrible crimes? Are some people "evil," or are such crimes the result of mental illness? Is there another explanation? Or no explanation? I'd like to know what you think.
The scene in Blacksburg
"The injuries were just amazing. This man was brutal. There was not a shooting victim that didn't have less than three bullet wounds in them," said Dr. Joseph Cacioppo. He was one of the many off-duty doctors and nurses who called in to help at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Virginia, after Monday's campus rampage.

Three bullet wounds in each person he saw.
33 dead including the gunman.
17 wounded remain hospitalized.
Two hours between shootings.
25,000 Virginia Tech students.
Four major and one minor surgeries performed on Monday. None overnight.

It's hard not to focus on numbers. It's what journalists default to when big news breaks. A little more than 24 hours ago, the first reports said that one person was wounded and one person was dead. There was an audible gasp at the news conference when the number of dead increased to 20. By the time the final toll - 33 - was announced, we were already on our way to Virginia.

I'm part of a large CNN team in place in and around Blacksburg. Legions of correspondents, crews and producers from every network have descended. Satellite trucks dot the campus. Our mission here, as medical journalists, is to get beyond the numbers and to tell the stories of people at the heart of this tragedy. We want to hear about the heroic doctors and nurses who saved lives yesterday -- the life-and-death decisions. We seek to understand what the community will learn from this unparalleled trauma. We're working hard to bring you answers.

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be joining me this afternoon. What do you want to learn from our reporting? What details are you waiting to hear? Were you just as staggered by the numbers as we were?
Monday, April 16, 2007
Cancer and the Presidency
Cancer is playing a surprisingly big role in the 2008 presidential election. Rudy Giuliani underwent radiation therapy for prostate cancer in 2000. John McCain has been treated for malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, several times. Of course, there is Elizabeth Edwards, wife of John Edwards, who has had a recurrence of breast cancer. Possible candidate Fred Thompson recently revealed details of his slow-growing lymphoma, now in remission.

The first presidential candidate to publicly acknowledge having cancer was Paul Tsongas. In his 1992 White House bid, he and his doctors told the public that he had been cancer free since his treatment for aggressive lymphoma in 1986. After Tsongas lost the Democratic nomination, he admitted that he and his doctors had lied about a recurrence of cancer in 1987. Tsongas died from complications of cancer treatment in 1997 on the next-to-last day of what could have been his first term.

Given how forthcoming today's candidates have been, it's hard to believe that past presidents have gone to extreme lengths to conceal their cancer treatment. In the summer of 1893, President Grover Cleveland had secret surgery to remove cancer in his jaw. The tumor was larger than a golf ball. It was just a few months after winning his second term as president. That procedure was concealed from the public for almost a quarter of a century.

More recently in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson had a secret operation to remove skin cancer form his ankle. His condition and treatment were kept under wraps for 10 years.

President Ronald Reagan was the first commander in chief to admit to having had cancer. He broke the presidential seal of secrecy in 1985. First, he had surgery to remove polyps that turned out to be colon cancer, and then just months later, he had skin cancer removed from his nose.

Cancer was once considered not only a political liability, but a death sentence. Today it's a very different disease.

"Thirty years ago if you were told you had cancer, your odds were about 50-50 that you were going to survive five years. Now the odds are closer to about two out of three people living to five years," says Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society.

Cancer prevalence rates have gone up, but so have survival rates. While there is definitely room for greater progress, new therapies and better screening have made cancer a more manageable disease.

"As a doctor, I'm aware of the fact that many folks who get to be the age that presidents would be, have other illnesses as well," adds Dr. Lichtenfeld. "They have hypertension, problems with cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes. Is cancer really all that different?"

Does it matter to you whether or not a presidential candidate has cancer? Does the public have a right to know if a sitting president has cancer? Do you think there are major differences between being a cancer survivor and having a history of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol or heart disease? Do you think cancer survivors have any limits to their ability?
Get 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.
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