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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Awake During Surgery; Porn Sunday; Drugs and Dollars
Aired December 30, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us on this next-to-last day of 2005.
Sit back and relax, because we are going to look back on some of the most provocative stories of the year, including how you could save thousands of dollars in the new year -- right after a look at the hour's top stories from Headline News.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
The Justice Department is now investigating to find out who gave the media classified information that took the lid off the National Security Agency's domestic spying program. After the leak, President Bush admitted he signed an order allowing eavesdropping without warrants on Americans in terror cases. The Senate plans hearings in the new year into whether the surveillance program is legal.
The man who nearly killed President Reagan, John Hinckley Jr., can now visit his parents. Hinckley President Reagan in 1981 and is confined to a mental hospital. But he's been allowed occasional outings around the nation's capital. And, today, a federal judge said Hinckley can make some longer trips to visit his parents in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Hundreds of people who have been stuck on three Amtrak trains for more than 24 hours are finally moving again tonight, but not before some of them got off the trains to fend for themselves. A derailed freight train had blocked their path near Savannah, Georgia.
In Northern California, another in a seemingly endless series of rainy winter storms is causing more flooding there and triggering fears of mudslides this weekend.
Oklahoma and Texas could use that rain, though. Grass fires have burned more than 50,000 acres this week, and more dry, windy weather is due this weekend. At least four people have been killed and more than 200 homes destroyed.
And would you believe another tropical storm has formed in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean? Tropical Storm Zeta is in the 27th -- is the 27th named storm of 2005. And that is a record. Fortunately, though, Zeta poses no threat to land.
And those are the headlines at this hour. Stay with us for a special edition of PAULA ZAHN NOW.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN (voice-over): Drugs and dollars -- generic drugs are supposed to save you money, but just wait until you see what we discovered -- same drug, different store and an outrageous difference in price.
GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT: So, a $50 drug here could cost $150, $200?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: anywhere from $100 to $200 at other pharmacies.
ZAHN: Just ahead, the secrets that could save you thousands.
Who's your daddy? -- the startling story of brothers and sisters with nothing in common, except the anonymous man who was their father.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you guarantee the anonymity of the donors?
DR. CAPPY ROTHMAN, CALIFORNIA CRYOBANK: I don't think we can absolutely guarantee.
ZAHN: The search for sperm donor 66.
Awake during surgery. You are supposed to be unconscious.
KELLY HAAPALA, WOKE UP DURING SURGERY: I was screaming inside, "Stop; I'm awake." Nobody is hearing me.
ZAHN: But what if you wake up under the knife?
Porn Sunday -- what kind of preachers bring sex to Sunday service?
MIKE FOSTER, PASTOR: We're young guys. We know the -- the lure of pornography.
ZAHN: The shocking, surprising message that will have you scratching your heads.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think Jesus would attend a porn convention and make with porn stars?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Exactly.
ZAHN: And meet the world's ugliest dog. Move over, Rover. This is not going to be pretty.
A special year-end edition of PAULA ZAHN NOW.
ZAHN: And we are starting tonight with something that could save you a lot of money in the coming year. In 2004, Americans spent more than $18 billion on generic drugs. With skyrocketing health care costs, they have become essential for millions of us. But you are not going to believe what we discovered about the big differences in what generic drugs cost. We found that some pharmacies charge up to 10 times more than others for the identical generic pills. The bottom line, buyer, beware.
Consumer correspondent Greg Hunter has been working on the story for some time.
Here's what he found out.
GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These days, the cost of prescription drugs may be a hard pill to swallow. It's a relief to know that choosing generic can save us a couple of bucks, right?
But, buyer, beware. You may still be spending a lot more than you have to, even on your generics. CVS, Walgreens, Sam's Club and Costco, we canvassed four well-known pharmacies and discovered that there can be a big difference in the cost of the exact same generic drug from pharmacy to pharmacy. How much of a difference? From a couple of dollars to a couple of hundred dollars.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I take Actos.
HUNTER: Since developing diabetes and then suffering a stroke, 59-year-old Gloria Weebley (ph) relies on 15 different medications to stay alive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my Amaryl. That's for diabetes.
HUNTER: Twenty-nine pills a day, mostly generic, which she pays for out of pocket.
(on camera): Can you stop taking any one of these things?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would probably die.
HUNTER (voice-over): Because Gloria struggles to afford her hundreds of dollars of drugs every month, we did some price-shopping for her in the Tampa, Florida, area to see if we could save her some cash. Here's what we found.
(on camera): The generic muscle relaxer that Gloria uses to control her spasms from her diabetes is $11. 68 at this Sam's Club.
At this CVS, that same medication, nearly $48. 50. And, at this Walgreens, the exact same generic muscle relaxer, nearly $64, more than five times the cost of the cheapest.
(voice-over): And that wasn't the only drug. Overall, we discovered we could save Gloria $120 per month on her generics simply by shopping around.
(on camera): Same drug.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait a minute. How come? It's all generic. It's the same thing.
HUNTER (voice-over): Hipp Phan (ph) is a pharmacist with Sam's Club, which is owned by Wal-Mart. It's where we found the best total price for Gloria's medicines. Phan (ph) sees big price differences all the time, especially when customers transfer their prescriptions from a competing pharmacy.
(on camera): So, a $50 drug here could cost $150, $200?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It could cost anywhere from $100 to $200 at other pharmacies.
HUNTER: We priced some other common prescriptions. On the day we called, the generic form of Paxil was about $32 at Sam's Club, but $200 at Walgreens. The generic version of Cipro would run you only $19 at Costco. But, at CVS, it was $198, 10 times the price for the exact same prescription. We even found big differences in the cost of a well-known breast cancer drug.
(on camera): The generic cancer drug Tamoxifen sells for a little more than $39 at this Costco.
But that same generic cancer-fighting drug at CVS is $216, a staggering $177 difference.
CHARLIE CRIST, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The wide range in prescription drugs is a -- is a problem in our state. It is a problem nationally.
HUNTER (voice-over): Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist finds the differences in drug prices in his state excessive.
CRIST: I'm all for people making a profit. And, obviously, that's what they're doing. But I'm not for people profiteering on the backs of people who need this in order to live.
MARY ANN WAGNER, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CHAIN DRUG STORES: I don't think you can consider profiteering when you're barely covering your costs to operate a business.
HUNTER: We asked for on-camera interviews with CVS and Walgreens, which, in our limited survey, had some of the higher prices. They sent us to Mary Ann Wagner from the National Association Of Chain Drug Stores. WAGNER: When a pharmacy buys a drug from either the wholesaler or the manufacturer, those costs to the pharmacy may vary from day to day. And, then, on top of that, they have to add their costs for dispensing that prescription.
HUNTER (on camera): I mean, we are talking a cancer drug costs $150 more to dispense for the exact same cancer drug?
WAGNER: I have no idea what CVS paid for their Tamoxifen. I have no idea where that particular store is located and that store's cost of operation. I have no idea what their overhead is.
But I do know that CVS is a very successful company. They would not be in business today by overcharging customers. People just don't tolerate that.
HUNTER (voice-over): According to our research, pharmacies in membership clubs stores, like Costco and Sam's Club, almost always offer the cheapest prices. They told us they can do this by avoiding fancy displays, buying in bulk, and charging membership fees. Wagner says their sheer size helps, too.
WAGNER: Few have a pharmacy that the pharmacy is just one department out of, say, 20, in a large store. They have a different business model than a traditional chain store that may do 50, 60 or 70 percent of their business in the pharmacy.
HUNTER: So, a membership club store can afford to keep their drugs cheap. And most people don't know you do not have to be a member of the store to use their pharmacies, people like 56-year-old Carmen (ph).
(on camera): How much do you spend a month for drugs?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over $1,000.
HUNTER: Over $1,000 a month?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mmm-hmm.
HUNTER: And you buy mostly generics?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mostly generics.
HUNTER (voice-over): Carmen (ph) takes a substitute for Lipitor called Lovastatin.
(on camera): Filled here at this Walgreens, a prescription can cost as much as $173. But if she would come right over here, to Sam's Club, that exact same prescription would be $105, a nearly $70 savings, simply for crossing the street.
(voice-over): We told Carmen (ph).
(on camera): When I tell you, you could have saved nearly $70 by walking right across the street, how do you feel? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me angry.
HUNTER (voice-over): But Mary Ann Wagner agrees, if Carmen (ph) can get a better deal, she should go ahead and walk across the street.
WAGNER: If it's cheaper over there and she's going to be on the medication for some time, she should do that.
HUNTER (on camera): They're responsible for getting a good deal?
WAGNER: Sure, as they are with everything else in life.
HUNTER (voice-over): The good news is, now there is some help for consumers who are willing and able to do a little research to save themselves some money.
Several states now have Web sites that do the price-checking for you, including Florida. The site has recorded 700,000 visits since it started in July.
CRIST: It's a great public service. It gives them the opportunity to get the drugs they need at a price that is competitive.
HUNTER: A start for some. But the challenge now is getting that information to people without easy access to the Internet, like Carmen (ph) and Gloria (ph), who still feel caught in the system.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here I am, a middle-aged woman. I'm not on Medicare. And, you know, it just seems like we're the category that gets socked with everything. You know, give us a break.
HUNTER: Greg Hunter, CNN, Tampa, Florida.
ZAHN: And now this from CVS. In a statement, the pharmacy chain said that price surveys across multiple retailers don't give a complete picture. CVS says you need to take into account the discount programs they offer, which they say can save you up to 40 percent in some cases.
And two more things to watch out for when shopping around for cheaper generic drugs -- if you tell your pharmacist about a better price, your pharmacist might actually match it. If you transfer prescriptions, make sure to tell your pharmacist about any other drugs you are taking to prevent dangerous drug interactions or other side effects.
And, as we continue our look at some of the year's most provocative stories, imagine discovering brothers and sisters you never knew you even had. Coming up next, the children of sperm donor number 66.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY KRAMER, FOUNDER, DONOR SIBLING REGISTRY: So there's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 families with 15 children all born from the same donor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And now that they found each other, should they try to find their father? That's next.
And, a little bit later on, picture yourself on the operating table and the anesthesia wears off, but you still can't move, can't talk, a terrifying experience that happens more often than you might think.
Also, believe it or not, there's a group of pastors who want their congregations to talk more about pornography. You are going to meet them when we come back.
ZAHN: Well, we have got just two days to go before the new year.
And, tonight, we're looking at some of the stories that really got us talking in 2005. I want you to try and imagine what it would be like suddenly to find out you have a half-dozen brothers and sisters you have never met and didn't even know existed, a pretty strange thought, perhaps even a little scary. But it's happening, as children conceived through anonymous sperm donations track down their biological siblings.
We sent Deborah Feyerick to Denver to meet five brothers and sisters who, just a year ago, had never even heard of each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shows you.
FEYERICK (voice-over): They laugh and joke as if they've known each other forever. Five brothers and sisters, half-siblings who share a father they have never met. In fact, they only met within the last year.
(on camera): You guys are really the first generation, on some levels, to be searching for one another. Why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like finding long lost siblings you never had. I mean, how many chances? What are the odds that's going to happen?
FEYERICK (voice-over): More surprising for 15-year-old Justin, an only child. Unlike the others here, he only found out this summer he was conceived using donor sperm. Immediately curious, he went online, and that's where he found twins Erin and Rebecca (ph) and siblings Tyler (ph) and McKenzie (ph), all from the same donor, donor 66. All live in the Denver area with an hour's drive from each other.
ERIN BALDWIN, CHILD OF SPERM DONOR: It's always that connection that you feel like you've gone way back but you really haven't. You've just met. FEYERICK: The one they haven't met is their genetic father. But from his written profile, which most potential mothers get, they know donor 66 was a surgical assistant. His sperm went to three mothers treated by the same doctor in the Denver area.
Wendy Kramer brought the teens together through her Web site, donorsiblingregistry.com. She created it with her son Ryan to help find his own donor dad. So far the site has made 1,000 matches between donor siblings or between donors and their children.
WENDY KRAMER, FOUNDER, DONOR SIBLING REGISTRY: So there's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 families with 15 children all born from the same donor.
FEYERICK (on camera): And you think that this is almost an under-reporting of the number, that there may be twice of three times as many from this one person?
W. KRAMER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Forty percent of women report their live births. You know, so this -- we're seeing a fraction here.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Sperm banks are not required to track the number of children born from any one donor. They may be two or 200. Since a donor may donate multiple times, there's just no way to know for sure.
(on camera): How many half brothers and sisters do you think you have out there?
RYAN KRAMER, CHILD OF SPERM DONOR: I'd say probably between 15 and 20 or so.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Wendy's son, Ryan, has never met many of them. He's 15 and by all accounts a genius. We met him at the University of Colorado, where he will soon be a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering. He easily answers calculus and physics questions. But questions about his own biological dad are much, much tougher.
R. KRAMER: Parts about my face, you know, there are -- my brow or teeth or my nose or certain things just, you know, clearly don't come from my mother. And to see those in somebody else, would just answer a world of questions for me.
FEYERICK: Ryan's donor dad likely wasn't much older than Ryan is now. In fact, the majority of donors accepted by sperm banks are college students. They must be handsome, smart, outgoing, the kind of guy a girl would like to date. It's no coincidence many sperm banks and clinics within walking distance of campuses. The work is easy, the pay is good.
DR. CAPPY ROTHMAN, CALIFORNIA CRYOBANK: They can make between 600 an $900 a month just coming to visit us a couple of times.
FEYERICK: Dr. Cappy Rothman is a pioneer in the field of donor sperm.
(on camera): What are we looking at here?
ROTHMAN: The next generation.
FEYERICK (voice-over): He founded California Cryobank in the mid-1970s, and estimated as many as than three quarters of a million babies have been born from his sperm bank alone, a daunting number considering there are now 150 sperm banks across the country.
When Rothman began, the controversy was using a stranger's sperm to have a baby. The controversy now, Rothman says, children trying to track down their genetic donors, men who never intended to be found.
(on camera): Do you guarantee the anonymity of the donors?
ROTHMAN: We try to, we thought we did, we hoped we could. But after what's been taking place with the misuse of some of the technology out there, I don't think we can absolutely guarantee.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Most potential mothers sign contracts agreeing to respect a potential donor's privacy. Wendy says she never did. It may not matter. Testing DNA is as easy as swabbing your cheek, and the growth of genetic databases could make it all but impossible for donors to remain anonymous. One teenager recently used a saliva sample, had his DNA analyzed, and found his genetic father through a DNA database.
W. KRAMER: I see all on my Web site, and over the next 10 years, this wave of kids is about to hit this sperm bank industry and want answers to their questions.
FEYERICK: Donor dads have absolutely no legal or financial responsibility to their genetic offspring. So then, what is it children like Ryan really want?
R. KRAMER: Really, all I'm looking for from the donor is just to answer a few of those questions I have. You know, I'm not looking for a relationship or money or anything that, you know, a lot of people assume that donor kids want to know about them. Really, it's just a curiosity about who he is and, you know, where I came from.
FEYERICK: The five Denver born kids from donor 66 are now debating how far they want to go to find their genetic dad.
(on camera): So, show of hands. Who wants to find the donor?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would love to, but like ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be cool.
FEYERICK: You're not so sure? Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm satisfied beyond belief. I have two brothers, two sisters.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Sisters and brothers, once strangers, now family.
JUSTIN SENK, CHILD OF SPERM DONOR: You know, your friends, you may never see them again after college or after high school, but I'm going to know all of them for the rest of my life.
FEYERICK: And who's to say how many more children from donor 66 they will meet down the road.
Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Boulder, Colorado.
ZAHN: And Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry, tells us that, since our story ran, she's had more than 500 new people register on the Web site. And she adds that there have been 200 new matches between siblings.
Still ahead, something so terrifying, it's tough for any of us to imagine, waking up in the middle of surgery, feeling all the pain, and not being able to tell the surgeon to stop.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAAPALA: I was in such terror. I needed to let them know so badly that they needed to stop what they were doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: They call it anesthesia awareness. And it happens to tens of thousands of people every year.
And, a little bit later on, something that may sound like a joke, but it's not, some ministers who have actually created a Web site that they call the number-one Christian porn site. Find out what they are up to., s we continue our look at the stories the got us talking in 2005.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
Try to picture yourself in this position, on the operating table, undergoing surgery and you wake up. You feel all the pain, but you can't move. You can't even scream. It's terrifying. Yet, it happens to thousands of people every year, like the woman you are about to meet.
Here's Keith Oppenheim.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): What's your surgery for?
JANE HUBBARD, PATIENT: My surgery's for my left knee. I have a cartilage tear in my left knee. OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Like thousands of people do each day, Jane Hubbard is undergoing surgery.
(on camera): When it comes to the anesthesia, what are your expectations?
HUBBARD: To be kept comfortable, to sleep during the procedure and wake up at the end and not feel it.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I'm going to get you.
KELLY HAAPALA, WOKE UP DURING SURGERY: You're all right.
OPPENHEIM: Kelly Haapala had the same expectations in 1999, when she went into surgery after shattering her hip socket in a car accident.
(on camera): That's -- that's quite a hit you took.
HAAPALA: I'm lucky. And that's what I keep reminding myself. I'm lucky, that it -- it could have been much worse.
OPPENHEIM: As frightening as the car accident was, Kelly says her greatest trauma came during surgery.
HAAPALA: I remember I left my room, and I was wheeled down the hall. When I got to the operating room, they introduced me to my anesthesiologist. He told me briefly, you know, well, we're going to put you under and everything will be OK, and then they have you count down from 10, and you're out.
OPPENHEIM: But unlike most patients, Kelly did not remain unconscious. Sometime after the surgery began, Kelly became aware. She could hear voices.
HAAPALA: I just kept thinking maybe I'm dreaming that this is happening to me, and as I was slowly realizing that I was in the operating room, that's when I started feeling the tugging, pushing, pressure, and then after that, I started feeling the pain.
OPPENHEIM: While the drugs that were keeping her unconscious were wearing off, other drugs still kept her paralyzed.
HAAPALA: I don't know how to explain it other than like a hot poker just jabbing into you to scrape all of my fragments out of there, and then like a big vacuum noise of the suctioning.
OPPENHEIM: She could feel and hear everything that was happening to her, but had no way of communicating that she was awake.
HAAPALA: I was screaming inside: "Stop. I'm awake. This can't happen. Stop. Stop." And nobody's hearing me.
OPPENHEIM: Eventually, Kelly could move. She began flailing her arms and legs. HAAPALA: I was in such terror. I needed to let them know so badly that they needed to stop what they were doing. They just dove on me and started screaming at each other that I was awake and put her back under, put her back under.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): Did you hear that?
HAAPALA: Yes. Yes. They were frightened as well.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The medical term for what happened to Kelly Haapala is called anesthesia awareness.
It's estimated it only happens to somewhere between 0.1 to 0.2 percent of patients who receive general anesthesia, but put that into the number of actual cases, and that means somewhere between between 20,000 to 40,000 people in the U.S. become aware during surgery every year.
DR. CARL ROSOW, ANESTHESIOLOGIST, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: I have a little antibiotic.
OPPENHEIM: Dr. Carl Rosow is an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
ROSOW: The problem happens when a person doesn't get enough drug, for one reason or the other. Either they're insensitive to drug, and so the normal dose doesn't put them completely to sleep. Or, because something interrupts the flow of drug.
OPPENHEIM: Last fall, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations issued an alert to hospitals across the country saying anesthesia awareness is under-recognized and undertreated.
ROSOW: I think it's a very natural tendency for clinicians to try to explain it away. It's an embarrassing thing to happen. You feel like perhaps the care has failed the patient somehow. And it's nicer to think that it really didn't happen.
OPPENHEIM: Dr. Janet Osterman of Boston University Medical Center has studied patients who have experienced anesthesia awareness. Her findings show over 50 percent of patients who go through it suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
DR. JANET OSTERMAN, BOSTON UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: People had nightmares. They had intrusive thoughts, thoughts of their surgery or parts of their surgery would come to them while they were trying to do even simple things, like brushing their teeth or driving your car.
OPPENHEIM: Kelly Haapala's surgeon told her not to dwell on what had happened to me.
HAAPALA: I should have been able to talk to someone about what had happened to me. I should have gotten an apology, an explanation, anything would have been helpful.
OPPENHEIM: Even more upsetting to Kelly, she is now facing additional surgery on her hip.
HAAPALA: I am very scared that the anesthesia part of it, something could go wrong again.
OPPENHEIM: So what do you want?
HAAPALA: Well, they have brain activity monitors out, the best monitors are one form of them.
ROSOW: So take a look. What we're going to do right now...
OPPENHEIM: This is getting ready for the...
ROSOW: Yes, putting the BIS monitor on.
OPPENHEIM: BIS, or bi-spectral index monitoring, is a brain wave technology that measures how conscious a person is during surgery.
ROSOW: It's going to feel a little prickly.
OPPENHEIM: Doctor Rosow doctor routinely uses it. He's a consultant to Aspect, the company that manufactures the monitor. The BIS monitor displays a number. Anything above 60 means the patient is more likely conscious.
ROSOW: The BIS monitor is tracking something that I couldn't measure in any other way.
OPPENHEIM: She is fully anesthetized right now?
ROSOW: Sure, fully anesthetized. She very rapidly went from a state of being conscious with numbers in the 80s down to a very low number.
OPPENHEIM: But there's a split among anesthesiologists. And because the technology is relatively new, a task force of the American Society of Anesthesiologists recently did a one-year study of the monitors. Their conclusion, BIS monitors are still unproven.
But Kelly Haapala wants to be sure her next anesthesiologist is using it. As unsettled as the data may be on BIS monitors, she wants to feel more confident that during her upcoming surgery, she will wake up at only one time, when it's over.
HAAPALA: There can always be human error. And that can happen in anything that you do. With today's technology, I don't see why we shouldn't have a monitor in every surgery.
ROSOW: You can probably remove this now.
HAAPALA: It's not a guarantee, but it's the closest we can get right now to a guarantee.
OPPENHEIM: Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Boston.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: And there is something to add. Just last month, Kelly did have surgery on her hip. This time, the doctor used one of those brain activity scanners, and she said she stayed under for the whole operation.
Still ahead, an important warning for parents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PACATTE, MOTHER: A couple of months before he died, he became very hostile, very angry. He complained of horrible headaches.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So what actually led to her son's death? A game where kids try to make themselves pass out.
ZAHN: One of the stories that really got us talking this year first came out of Idaho, and it exposed something that few of us realized existed. Kids looking for a high are playing something called the choking game, or the fainting game. Basically, they are suffocating themselves.
Here's Thelma Gutierrez with one family's wrenching story and a mother's powerful warning to alert other parents before it's too late.
SARAH PACATTE, MOTHER: I have a little bit of anger, but mostly desperation and an urgency.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a game played across the country.
GABRIEL MORDECAI: Like hyperventilating and then go, like that kind of, just like right on each side.
GUTIERREZ: Children, some using ropes and belts, to cut oxygen to their brains to make themselves pass out. It is called the choking game. The results can be deadly.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OPERATOR: How old is the person?
CALLER: She's 13!
OPERATOR: So, is she breathing at all?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
GUTIERREZ: Thirteen-year-old Chelsea Dunn of Idaho, 13-year-old Gabriel Mordecai of California, and 14-year-old Jason Linkins of North Carolina all died after playing that game. Details of how it is played, once passed around schoolyards, are now on the Internet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is cool, because when you are out, it is like sleeping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, that game is so fun.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You actually dream stuff.
GUTIERREZ: Paradise, California, where Sarah Pacatte was raising her four kids, where 13-year-old Sam and his twin brother, Gabriel, spent many carefree days.
MORDECAI: I couldn't do like the things, like, that I do with him, like, with anybody else.
GUTIERREZ: Gabriel, Sam's brother and best friend, died in May while playing the choking game.
PACATTE: It is very hard to watch Samuel be without his brother. It is -- we miss him so much.
GUTIERREZ: A boy taught Gabriel and Sam how to play the game.
MORDECAI: He was like, hey, have you guys ever did this? We are like, what? He was like, well, here, let me show you.
GUTIERREZ: The boys showed them how to hyperventilate.
MORDECAI: He went back like this. And then, like, somebody right here on each side, not right here, like cuts their arm like blood there, kind of like cuts off the blood flow to your brain, I guess, or something. And you like kind of like pass out for a few seconds. It's like sensation like kind of thing, like, that we had never experienced, I guess. And, like, it feels like weird, kind of like...
GUTIERREZ (on camera): What was Gabriel's response?
MORDECAI: It is awesome, something like that.
GUTIERREZ: He liked it?
GUTIERREZ: And you didn't?
MORDECAI: Well, I really didn't like it that much. But like I kind of did it because of like pressure.
GUTIERREZ: When Sarah found out her sons were playing, she told them to stop.
PACATTE: Gabriel was argumentative about this game.
GUTIERREZ (on-camera): What would he say to you?
PACATTE: Mom, what's the big deal? You know, I'm not take any drugs. I'm not drinking anything. I said the big deal is that every time you cut your oxygen off to your brain, you are causing brain damage little by little.
GUTIERREZ (voice over): But Gabriel loved the sensation.
PACATTE: It's almost like a drug. They crave it. They crave the high that they get from the lack of oxygen.
GUTIERREZ: Gabriel began to play alone.
MORDECAI: And then one day he was doing it to himself, like to himself. Like I guess you can do it because you go like this, and he was doing it to himself. And then I like -- he stopped because I like told him to or I was going to tell mom.
GUTIERREZ: Despite Sarah's numerous warnings, Sam says Gabriel kept doing it, often while she was at work. Looking back, she now realizes there were warning signs.
PACATTE: A couple of months before he died, he became very hostile, very angry. He complained of horrible headaches. His -- then I started seeing bloodshot eyes.
GUTIERREZ: But at the time, Sarah thought maybe her son was smoking marijuana. She never imagined Gabriel putting a rope around his neck and choking himself for a rush.
(on-camera): You never put two and two together?
PACATTE: I never did put two and two together, no, and the day before Gabriel died, I looked at his neck. And I went up to him and I said, what is that? And he looked at me kind of funny, and he said, don't worry, mom, it's not a hickey.
GUTIERREZ (voice over): One evening while Sarah was preparing dinner, Sam went into his room and saw his brother.
MORDECAI: I walk in there, and the -- he's sitting down with his math book and stuff on his lap and the movie is playing. And I was like oh. But he has the rope around his neck, but he's, like I said, he is sitting down. So I was like, Gabe, get that off your neck and whatever.
And I start like getting dressed more and like I look over at him because he didn't answer me, and I look at his arm and like it was blotched like with purple and white and stuff. And then like I guess I yelled like Gabe.
PACATTE: And when I got to the bedroom door, Samuel was across the room behind his brother, and he was holding his brother up underneath his arms.
GUTIERREZ: Gabriel was airlifted to a hospital in Sacramento. Sarah and Sam made the two-hour gut-wrenching journey by car.
PACATTE: Me and Sam kept, you know, yelling at him, you know, fight, Gabriel, fight.
GUTIERREZ: They prayed at Gabriel's side, but 15 hours later...
PACATTE: He died on life support. Yes, his body shut down even though he was on life support.
GUTIERREZ: Sarah says their apartment is too quiet now.
PACATTE: I miss their fighting. I'd give -- I'd pay to have them fight. I would. I'd gladly give up my life just to at least hear them fight.
MORDECAI: We saw it lying got in and grabbed it.
GUTIERREZ: Sam and Sarah take some comfort from all the memories. And from the words in Gabriel's journal.
MORDECAI: I plan to go through all four years of high school at Paradise High School with A's and B's. Then I plan to go to college for four years. I plan to send my mom about $500 a month to help support her.
PACATTE: I'm angry. I'm hurt. I have guilt. So much guilt that I didn't save my baby. What a beautiful child. What a beautiful gift. And he's gone in a flash. Just a flash of just a blink of the eye, my boy is gone.
ZAHN: We spoke with a child psychologist about how you should handle this matter with your children. And he told us to talk with them about choking just as you would about smoking and taking drugs. Be firm, be serious and look for signs of playing the game like bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck and closed doors.
Still ahead, the preachers who got us talking this year by talking about pornography.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're wired up just like any other guy is wired up. We know that the lure of pornography. We've seen the devastation that happens in people's lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Wait until you see their web site.
ZAHN: I've got something for you now you might find kind of surprising. By one count, every month, nearly one out of every seven people indulges in some form of Internet pornography. With numbers like that in mind, some people committed to fighting porn got us talking by taking a controversial step and confronting porn directly in church.
Here's Carol Lin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the problem with porn and any other sin, it's stopping us from doing what God wants us to do.
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's porn Sunday at Willow Creek Christian Church in Chicago. Finally, Craig Gross (ph) and Mike Foster (ph) are bringing their message directly into the house of God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you in here are struggling with pornography?
LIN: They've worked for this moment for three years, trying to organize an anti-pornography movement across the country, targeting ordinary churchgoers these pastors fear could succumb to a sinful obsession.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (glasses): Sex is not a spectator sport. You know, when God created sex, the plan was not to broadcast this out to millions of people for their enjoyment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People have bought the lie that, you know what? This is what I need to be into.
LIN: Joel Harris calls himself a victim of that obsession. He first got hooked on porn when he was 13 years old. But Joel also wanted to be a pastor.
JOEL DANIEL HARRIS, FORMER PORN ADDICT: I won't deny like my desire for God in that time. It wasn't that desire was gone. But I won't deny either my desire of lust, and it was kind of having these two things just battling it out inside of me.
LIN (on-camera): A double life?
HARRIS: Yes. I didn't know where to turn.
LIN (voice over): Joel's church offered little comfort.
(on-camera): What happens if somebody were to go to their pastor and say, I've got this addiction. I can't stop looking at these images on the Internet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, most of the times it doesn't happen. They don't even go to their pastor because it's not a safe place. But if they do, they still have those feelings of, you know, people are going to look at me different or am I going to get kicked out of the church? LIN: Craig and Mike, 30-something and California cool were working as church counselors when Mike says he received a one-word mission from God, porn.
(on-camera): You could be a sports counselor, why do you think God told you to talk about porn?
MIKE FOSTER, PASTOR: We're young guys, we know what's going on out there. We're wired up just like any other guy is wired up. We know that the lure of pornography. We've seen the devastation that happens in people's lives, especially young people's lives with Internet.
LIN: Internet porn is no longer America's dirty little secret. Nielsen ratings service says nearly 40 million of us look at it every month. It's anonymous, available, and accessible to just about anyone.
DR. DAVID GREENFIELD, CENTER FOR INTERNET BEHAVIOR: Millions and millions of people are using Internet pornography in a compulsive or abusive format.
LIN: Dr. David Greenfield is a clinical psychologist who has studied Internet addictions for eight years. He says virtual porn is designed to seduce it's viewers, mostly men, to log on again and again.
GREENFIELD: It's kind of like a slot machine. You never know what you're going to get each time you pull that handle, and it changes each time, but you're going to get some payoff.
LIN (on camera): What's wrong with people just looking at pictures?
GROSS: A lot of times it progresses, and it leads to other things. Whether that be an extramarital affair, or whether that be headed to strip clubs, or just this kind of world of fantasy. And an Internet woman never says no.
LIN (voice-over): Craig and Mike have com up with a blunt way to deal with the problem. The Web site address is xxxchurch.com -- a name designed to snare porn addicts surfing the net, and show them how they can break their obsession. They tried billboards to advertise, but those got ripped out by nervous communities. So they created the porn mobile, a rolling advertisement that is hard to ignore.
GROSS: The best is when we pull up next to a guy and he shakes his Bible at us.
LIN: Their booth at a pornography convention shattered conventional wisdom, and targeted both the messengers and the message.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you the Christian guys?
LIN (on camera): Why do you have to be so in people's faces? GROSS: We have to be. We're as loud and outrageous as they are. I mean, they are finding -- they're using technology; we're using technology. We're willing to do just about anything to get this message out to people.
LIN (voice-over): The message got to Joel Harris. It led him to admit his addiction in front of his chapel of 800 congregants.
HARRIS: It's something that thoroughly consumes me.
LIN: He believes exposing his obsession got him the support he needed. Now he uses software from xxxchurch.com that alerts two friends to any Web sites he visits, to keep him clean and accountable. And he preaches what he practices to other young people -- stay away from porn. That is what porn Sunday is all about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time that the church takes a lead on this issue and goes...
LIN: Seventy-five church congregations talking about porn, an unconventional success for two very unconventional pastors.
FOSTER: Jesus was a uncontroversial figure. I mean, he stirred it up with people.
LIN: You think Jesus would drive around in a porn mobile? Do you think Jesus would attend a porn convention and be friends with porn stars?
FOSTER: Absolutely. Jesus always hung out with the wrong crowd.
ZAHN: And there's this. Craig and Mike tell us they plan to do 20 more porn Sundays next year.
The subject of our next story was one of the most remarkable champions we've seen all year.
He was once the world's ugliest dog. Coming up, the end of the tale.
ZAHN: I don't think anyone could have expected the overwhelming outpouring of grief after the death of the canine known as the world's ugliest dog. The spectacularly unattractive animal passed away back in November. And according to his owner, millions of people have been visiting Sam's Web site to reminisce and pay their respects. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's one less dog at Susie Lockheed's house. An empty dog bed, an empty dog bowl, and an owner who feels empty. Crying one minute, laughing the next. SUSIE LOCKHEED, SAM'S OWNER: Really, it's almost like a world leader has passed away. I am overwhelmed.
MOOS: If looks could kill, Sam would have been a mass murderer.
Named world's ugliest dog at California's Sonoma Marin Fair...
LOCKHEED: 2003, 2004, 2005.
MOOS: It is the ugliest dog.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the ugliest dog in the world. It died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not very nice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he does -- won it three years in a row.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let's say I didn't like the way you looked. Would I say that you're the ugliest woman in the world?
MOOS: I'd hope not to my face.
But Sam's ugliness won him fans worldwide. When he died, put to sleep, it was in his owner's eyes.
LOCKHEED: From the moment of life to the moment of death, he had the exact same look in his eyes, because he always kind of looked like death warmed over.
MOOS: But there was nothing warmed over about Susie and Sam's relationship. Susie took him in from a shelter when he was 9 and considered unadoptable. He slept in her bed. Now she's been sleeping with his favorite toy.
LOCKHEED: See, people are going to think I'm a nut, Jeanne. There was some joking going around on the Internet about having him taxedermied for the Smithsonian Institution, but he's actually being cremated.
MOOS: Sam's oak box will join her five other cremated pets.
In the wake of his death, Sam's Web site has gotten as many as 6 million hits in one day. Condolence cards and e-mails, like this one, slugged "ugly is only skin deep," have poured in from all over the world.
LOCKHEED: Someone made this for Sam. This really chokes me up, because -- oh, yeah, I miss my dog.
MOOS: At a fan Web site, Sam has been given angel wings.
LOCKHEED: Oh, he -- oh, god.
MOOS: Sam was almost 15. What finally got him? Heart failure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.
MOOS: He probably...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looked in the mirror.
MOOS: Susie thinks Sam's gift was to make people laugh. If she ever wants to hear Sam, all she has to do is dial her own phone.
LOCKHEED: Please leave your message at the sound of the growl.
MOOS: Though Sam didn't make it through the holidays, you can catch him in his Santa's outfit, representing December 2006. Just be careful where you put the ugliest dog calendar. Don't want to ruin your dog's appetite.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: Oh, Sam, we hardly knew you.
It's true the old year had some pretty ugly moments, but there were some good times, too, and always the hope of a happier year to come. Thanks for being with us tonight and every night you joined us in 2005. We have had some spectacular growth here, thanks to you.
All of us here at PAULA ZAHN NOW wish you health and happiness in 2006. LARRY KING LIVE is next. Again, thanks for joining us tonight. Good night.
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