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Clearing Snow May Hurt You; Herbal Formulas Combined With Prayer Draws Scrutiny; Sleep Disorders; Knee Surgery Linked With Obesity

Aired February 17, 2007 - 08:30   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news -- a surprise visit to Baghdad today by Condoleezza Rice. The Secretary of State is meeting with U.S. and Iraqi officials about the latest security measures. Rice is also visiting the Middle East for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
A brief lull in violence shattered this morning in Iraq. Back-to-back explosions in the country's northern oil hub. It happened in Kirkuk. Two car bombs killed at least six people and injured 45 more.

Well, there is a political showdown in the Senate today over the president's Iraq plans. Senate majority leader Harry Reid pushing for a vote on a resolution opposing the troop buildup. But he may not have the 60 votes needed to get past a Republican roadblock. We're going to keep you updated on this story.

Your next check of the headlines, that is coming up at the top of the hour. But first, HOUSECALL with Dr. Sanjay Gupta starts right now.

SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning, I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Welcome to HOUSECALL.

The powerful winter blast continues across many parts of the United States, making things just miserable for millions this week. If you're planning on doing some snow clearing this morning, stop. Greg Hunter wants to make sure you don't end up in the emergency room.


GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sanjay, when the snow is coming down as it is right now, it's beautiful. It's light, it's fluffy.

But if you have to shovel it, look out. You may get hurt.

(voice-over): With as much as 12 feet of snow in upstate New York over 10 days, hospital representatives there are saying that winter injuries have piled up along with the snow.

BILL MAHON, DR., ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: I think the volume has increased significantly. The type of injuries are no different than what we will see in most winter seasons, but the volume has certainly increased the past week.

HUNTER: Fifty-two winter-related injuries in less than a week. The Oswego Hospital ER has seen everything from fractures to carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, more than 20,000 people went to emergency rooms in 2005 with snow-related injuries. And here in upstate New York, they have a special hazard to look out for -- trying to stay on the roof while they're shoveling off feet of snow!

MAHON: The uncommon injuries in this past week have been people who have fallen 8, 10, 12, 15 feet from roofs and ladders. They're up on ladders trying to clear their roofs of all the snow that has accumulated.

HUNTER: Oswego County Public Health Director Kathy Smith gives safety pointers, starting with your shovel.

KATHY SMITH, OSWEGO PUBLIC HEALTH DIR.: One of the things that we recommend are these new ergonomically designed snow shovels.

HUNTER: The crooked shovel.

SMITH: The crooked shovel, which can help prevent back injuries.


SMITH: Another thing is that when you are shoveling snow, always bend your knees and lift with your legs.

HUNTER: Not what I'm doing here.

SMITH: Not with your back, exactly. Don't load your shovel up too much.

HUNTER: Like that?

SMITH: Right.


SMITH: Take a break every 10 minutes or so. And if you have a cardiac condition, you really have to be careful. Snow shoveling is heavy work. And it's very cold out. And that's not good for people with cardiac conditions.

HUNTER: So next time you head out to shovel snow, remember, without taking precautions, it could be hazardous to your health.


HUNTER: One of these ergonomically designed shovels we're talking about is about $20. It's light. It's strong. And to save your back, it may be worth it. Back to you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Greg, thanks so much. I mean, it's a crooked shovel. Kind of interesting. Good advice. I won't do any snow shoveling. I hope my wife's listening. Stay warm, Greg, out there. Not long ago, we heard about promising news about use of illegal drugs by teens. We heard that it was dropping. This week, though, the other shoe dropped.

Christine Romans reports about an alarming rise in the abuse of what's in just about every parent's medicine cabinet.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sarah is 16 years old from Michigan. She says getting drugs was easy.

SARAH: I could buy them just as fast as I can get pizza.

ROMANS: Mike is 17 from Long Island, New York, and knows just where to get drugs at school.

MIKE: You could walk down the hallway, and you just know who's involved.

ROMANS: Both started with marijuana and quickly moved onto prescription drugs. Both now being treated for drug addiction.

Another 2.1 million kids just like them abused prescription drugs in 2005, the government says. And for younger teens, 12 to 13 years old, prescription medicines are now the most commonly abused drugs.

JOSEPH CALIFANO, CTR. ADDICTION & SUBSTANCE ABUSE: Teen abuse of prescription drugs has tripled, over the last 10 years. Twice that of marijuana abuse, five times of that cocaine abuse, sixty times that of heroin abuse.

ROMANS: The government released new analysis of youth drug trends, concluding teens are abusing prescription drugs in record numbers. And parents are unaware of the problem.

A survey of 12th graders found marijuana is still the drug of choice, but the fastest growth was in drugs like Vicondin, amphetamines, cough medicine, sedatives, and tranquilizers.

JOHN WALTERS, NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: This is attractive to young people, we found in the study, because they think it's safer.

ROMANS: One-third of all new abusers of prescription drugs in 2005 were 12 to 17 years old.

CALIFANO: Adults in this country, whether they be parents, teachers, pharmaceutical companies, have got to do a better job of keeping this stuff out of the hands of our children.

ROMANS: Both Sarah and Mike have been sober for a year.

(on camera): The studies show girls are more likely to abuse prescription drugs, but both boys and girls say it's easy to get them, at home from their grandparents, at school, even online.

Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

GUPTA: All right, Christine, thank you.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of men and women in this country. And a lot of people don't know that. Now the government says residents of Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia top the list of those suffering from heart disease. If you're curious about how your state stacks up and which states rank the best, click on We've got a full list there for you.

Now, onto health and religion. Some call it Christian wellness. And it's become big business. It involves taking herbal formulas combined with personal prayer. That practice is now drawing federal scrutiny after complaints of a doctor in California using religion to sell expensive formulas she claimed could cure cancer.

Here's CNN's Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was certain the doctor who practiced here was quite literally the answer to her prayers. Because for Emily Rodriguez, what should have been a joyful time turned into a terrifying moment. While breastfeeding her baby, she had discovered a lump in her breast. The doctor confirmed it was cancer. It was crushing news.

How would you describe your mother?

NANCY OLIVARES, DAUGHTER OF CANCER PATIENT: A very giving, very honest person, very well liked.

SIMON: And devoted to her Christian faith. Rodriguez's daughter says her mother wanted to believe that God would steer her to the right doctor, and one who wouldn't put her through painful therapies.

OLIVARES: She didn't want to have to do radiation and chemo. And she just, she just wanted to leave it up to basically the Lord's, you know, our God's faith.

SIMON: There is also this woman, Eugenia Vigiletti. She was also sick and prayed for a permanent cure, hoping the power of faith with the right treatment would work.

You were diagnosed with breast cancer.


SIMON: Even though she had her lump successfully removed, she was terrified cancer would return. Her husband had died of lung cancer, and the thought of her children losing both parents was a lot to bear. That's when she saw this.

ANNOUNCER: Praise the Lord! TBN has a worldwide ministry.

SIMON: TBN, the faith-based Trinity Broadcast Network. And on the channel that evening in December of 2002, Dr. Christine Daniel offered hope to people with cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you say to someone who's just been diagnosed, they've got cancer -- they've just been told they've got cancer?

CHRISTINE DANIEL, DR.: We have a collection of herbs from around the world, the best areas from every nation.

SIMON: And Dr. Daniel told the national audience those herbs, combined with prayer, produced amazing results.

DANIEL: We have people today, stage 4-B cancers across this nation that are living today because of our treatment.

So we're not practicing something that you don't see. We have over 60 percent cure rates for even the lowest level that we have.

SIMON: In other words, for her cheapest herbal remedy treatment, she claims to cure six out of ten patients with cancer. Eugenia Vigiletti and Emily Rodriguez were convinced they had found the doctor to help them battle their disease.

OLIVARES: I just remembered she was saying that she was going to be cured, that everything's going to be taken care of, that the Lord has answered her prayer.


GUPTA: An answer to a prayer or bogus medical advice? After the break, Dan Simon has the rest of the story.

Plus, is your doctor right about your heart disease risk? If you're a woman, maybe not. We'll explain. And later, hallucinations, feeling frozen in place. We're going to fill you in on a surprisingly common disorder. All of that coming up on HOUSECALL SINAN: after the break.


GUPTA: Before the break, we began with the story of two women following their faith and searching for a cure for their cancer. A doctor offered hope through prayer and herbs.

Dan Simon now with the rest of their story.


SIMON (voice-over): Dr. Daniel works out of this small office just outside of Los Angeles. To her patients, she seemed like she had all the right credentials.

(on camera): She's a licensed M.D. She graduated from Temple University Medical School. For a time, she worked as an emergency room doctor.

(voice-over): But Dr. Daniel's image for helping people would later be challenged by many of her patients. When Eugenia Vigiletti went to her office, she says Dr. Daniel said she could help her only if she bought her formula, which turned out to be expensive.

EUGENIA VIGILLETI, CANCER PATIENT: She had different price treatments -- $6,000. And she says and I also have a $1,000 one. I says, ooh, I can't afford the $6,000.

SIMON: Well, what was the difference between the $1,000 treatment and the $6,000 treatment?

VIGILETTI: I have no idea. And I says, well, let me start with the $1,000 one.

SIMON: A few days later, she says she received some liquids and pills in the mail. She followed the treatment for a few months, but decided Dr. Daniel's approach wasn't for her.

VIGILETTI: She never put her hands on me, you know, to examine me or anything.

SIMON: She never asked for any refills. And now at 83, she remains cancer-free.

Dr. Daniel's practice has caught the attention of federal and state investigators, who are looking into whether she committed fraud and broke laws by introducing unapproved drugs into the market.

Investigators tell CNN they have identified nearly two dozen people who took her mixtures. Federal investigators believe by using religion to sell a "bogus miracle cancer cure," Dr. Daniel raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe even millions.

According to the investigator's affidavit, the price of her mixtures ranged from $350 a bottle to more than $4,200. Dr. Daniel claimed the higher the cost, the more potent the formula.

A Food and Drug Administration analysis of the mixtures showed one to be merely Vitamin C and caffeine. Another formula contained beef extract. And get this, sunscreen, which investigators found perplexing.

For Emily Rodriguez, Dr. Daniel's treatments were far more costly. Her daughter says Daniel wanted $11,000 up front just for the first few weeks of herbal supply.

Did that seem excessive to you?

OLIVARES: It did, but I mean, how can you put a price on your life?

SIMON: That's why the family was willing to pay a lot of money for this brown powder. The patient instructed to fill the empty capsules with it. The Rodriguezes say they spent about $33,000 for a couple of months of Dr. Daniel's treatment.

But Rodriguez's cancer had spread before she began the herbal treatment and later died, but not before depleting the family's entire savings. Rodriguez was 47. Dr. Daniel's attorney wouldn't return numerous phone calls. As for Daniel herself, she denies any wrongdoing. She declined to go on camera, but told CNN flat out that all of her alleged victims are lying.

At one point, she told us she never sold any products, period, only to contradict herself moments later, saying she has sold meals and yogurt.

She previously told KABC Television she did sell herbal products and conceded they were readily available over the counter. Still, she said her faith-based medicine has helped many patients.

DANIEL: I have patients that the Lord has helped because of prayer and they are ready to testify.

SIMON: Also ready to testify, Eugenia Vigiletti and the family of Emily Rodriguez, who believe Dr. Daniel exploited their faith to make money.

Dan Simon, CNN, Los Angeles.


GUPTA: What a fascinating report. Dan Simon, thanks so much for that.

Now let's check in with Judy Fortin. She's here with this week's health headlines. Judy?

JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Sanjay. We're following some interesting medical stories this week.

A study finds children taking the drug Singulair had fewer unscheduled doctor's visits, missed fewer days of school, and experienced fewer asthma symptoms. The study was conducted by doctors in Australia and funded by the drug's maker, Merck.

Cardiologists at Johns Hopkins University are calling for a change in the way doctors determine a woman's risk for heart disease. The editorial says doctors should add two factors to the list of risk factors for cardiovascular disease -- family history and C-reactive protein, which is linked to blood vessel inflammation.

And Sanjay, we've heard you talk about your sleep issues. Maybe a nap would help. Researchers say a 30-minute siesta three days a week can offset stress and reduce the risk of heart problems. People who had napped in the study had a 37 percent decrease in deaths from heart problems.

So Sanjay, if you can find time this afternoon, you might consider it.

GUPTA: Yes, with two daughters at home, one three weeks old, I'm not getting hardly any sleep at all, Judy.

FORTIN: Good luck with that. GUPTA: Thanks so much for that report.

You're going to get the latest medical news each week on HOUSECALL, but if you need a mid week fix, check out i-Tunes. Wednesday evening's my newest podcast is downloadable. This week, I've got tips on surviving all of this cold weather.

And coming up, dream or reality?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The person's wide awake. They can see their room, but they're still paralyzed. And they notice that they're still paralyzed.


GUPTA: It's a common sleep disorder that can be terrifying.

Plus, young and overweight? You may end up middle-aged and with new knees. We'll explain all that when HOUSECALL continues.


GUPTA: We're back with HOUSECALL. Now while napping might help your heart, we know a proper night's sleep is essential for good health.

But imagine that you don't just have problems sleeping, you actually hallucinate and you feel paralyzed while trying to sleep.


GUPTA (voice-over): Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to find an intruder standing in your bedroom. You try to react, you try to scream, but your body is literally paralyzed. All you can do is watch in fear.

That's what Shelly Carson experienced night after night for three months when she was in her 20s. She was on a new assignment as a flight attendant, flying all-nighters across the country, sleeping at odd hours of the day and of the night.

SHELLEY CARSON, EXPERIENCED SLEEP PARALYSIS: It was about 4:00 in the morning, and I saw a man standing in the frame of my door looking in at me. He was back lit from the light in the hall. So I couldn't really see his face, but he was looking at me.

GUPTA: As vivid as the intruder's presence felt, it was actually a hallucination.

CARSON: This is my worst nightmare. Somebody has broken into my apartment. And I'm absolutely paralyzed and I can't move. This happened night after night somewhere between 20 and 30 occurrences over a three-month period.

GUPTA: The hallucinations were a rare symptom of sleep paralysis, a common disorder in which the mind is partly awake, while the body is still caught in the dreaming stage of sleep, called REM sleep. The body remains immobile, except for the eyes, which are actually wide open. They usually last for seconds or minutes at the most. About 30 percent of us have at least one episode of sleep paralysis in our life times.

RICHARD MCNALLY, PARASOMNIA SPECIALIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The person's wide awake. They can see the room, but they're still paralyzed. And they notice that they're still paralyzed. And this can be quite a startling, frightening experience if you don't know what's going on.

GUPTA: Scary and disorienting, especially for the five percent of sleep paralysis sufferers who extremely vivid hallucinations. The most common vision? An ominous presence in the room. That's most likely an expression of the fear created by being paralyzed.

MCNALLY: The mind is sort of creating some sort of a situation to match the mood of fear.

GUPTA: A study by Mcnally's team also found that people claiming to have been abducted by aliens probably experienced sleep paralysis instead.

MCNALLY: People will hallucinate different things that are congruent with the cultures. The aliens coming into one's bedroom and abducting one's self is merely the latest contemporary gloss upon a universal psycho biological phenomenon.

GUPTA: We're not sure why sleep paralysis happens, but researchers suggest that during non-REM sleep, the brain releases the neurotransmitters normally active during this period, but it also continues to release its REM sleep neurotransmitter. That results in a combined state of wakefulness and paralysis.

Even though the brain is sending a signal down the spinal cord for the body to move, those signals get confused and the body remains immobile.

MCNALLY: They're emerging into wakefulness. And the motor neurons are still inactive. And you happen to notice that fact.

GUPTA: Sleep paralysis does not have direct negative effects on the body, but extreme cases can interfere with sleep and can be treated with certain antidepressants.

Better sleep habits and avoiding daytime naps and night shift work can bring lighter cases under control. As soon as she stopped flying overnight, Shelly's bouts of sleep paralysis ended with only occasional episodes since then. But being able to put a name to her episodes helped her manage her fear.

CARSON: If it were to happen to me tomorrow, I probably wouldn't be afraid of it at all. I might even look at it as an adventure.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: Shelley, that's a good way to think about it, for sure.

Coming up, a different way to think about your weight. It's not just about your heart and your clothes. Packing on the pounds could mean knee replacement. The details, after the break.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSECALL. There's something weighing heavy on the knees of millions of people. It's their weight.

As Americans continue to put on the pounds, younger and younger people -- it's remarkable -- are being forced to have what was once considered surgery for seniors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is bone on bone. There is no space here compared to here. There's bone on bone here.

GUPTA (voice-over): Joseph Harris had both knees replaced two years ago when he was 53. He blames it on playing football when he was younger and gaining weight when he was older.

JOSEPH HARRIS, KNEE REPLACEMENT PATIENT: I said if I slow down, then maybe it will slow down the degenerative process of the knees. Of course, slowed it down, but at the same time, I gained 35 pounds.

GUPTA: Every extra pound of weight you carry is an extra four pounds of pressure on your knees.

ARTHUR RAINES, DR., ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEON: And multiply that by the thousands of steps an average human being takes each day. That's a significant amount of force.

GUPTA: And a recent study found more than 400,000 Americans have knee replacements every year. Experts say that number could increase by eight times by the year 2030 in many cases, because of extra weight.

RAINES: Over the past 15 years, I mean, we're doing knee replacements in patients with arthritis in their 40s now, in their 50s. 60 is a young patient to me.

GUPTA: Added to which, knees only last 15 to 20 years. So having surgery younger means patients may have to go for more replacements.

At $31,000 a pop, knee surgery could end up costing Americans tens of billions of dollars, but some of that could be avoided by dropping that extra weight.

RAINES: Just a few pounds of weight loss can give you a significant relief in knee pain. And that might be one of the first steps in treating your knee problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: And here's an interesting note. People with joint replacements need to be vigilant about their dental health. Yes, get this. Bacteria that causes infections in teeth can actually travel through the veins and settle in an artificial joint. Stay where you are. More HOUSECALL after the break.


GUPTA: Unfortunately, we're out of time for this morning. Make sure to watch HOUSECALL every weekend for the latest news about your health and answers to all your medical questions.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.


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