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One Step Closer to Health Reform; Britain Gives Addicts Heroin; Woman Survives Frigid Death for 24 Hours

Aired October 17, 2009 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning. Welcome to HOUSE CALL: The show that helps you live stronger and longer. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thank so much for watching.

From committee to compromise: Congress moves one step closer to health care reform. What's going on? And more importantly, what does it mean for you?

Then, surviving a ski accident somewhere north of hope in the Arctic Circle. How cold can kill? But we've also learned that it could save as well.

And, living to tell what life might be like on the other side. A near-death experience explained.

Today, we're cheating death on HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: But, first, as you know, this is the place to get all the latest news on H1N1. You know, it still remains more of a concern in people with some sort of pre-existing condition. But it is worth mentioning something that caught our eye. The largest analysis to date of H1N1 shows nearly half of adults who end up in the hospital did not have a pre-existing condition.

And there's a large number of healthy people who have been severely impacted, it's been a bit of a surprise to health officials. They are looking into that. And millions of H1N1 vaccines are becoming available. Frankly, it's just not fast enough for some people.

See when it might be available in your state. Check out and click on your home state there.

And there are some important news out this week that a hospital you choose could change your life. Pay attention to this one. A health study shows that patients are twice as likely to die at low- rated hospitals versus the average hospitals. Now, there are such a thing as health grade ratings, they're determined by mortality and complication rates. For 28 common procedures, those age 65 and older, these ratings are done continuously.

Now, to find a hospital that's best for you, go to and Both of them have detailed information about the procedures performed at different hospitals and how you might fare there.

It is make or break time for health care reform. We've been talking about this for months now.

Here is what you need to know: The Senate Finance Committee approved its version of health care reform this week. And now, in some ways, and even bigger fight begins. The bill needs to be combined or blended in some way with the Kennedy health bill, which does include a public option. Something we talked about a lot on this show.

The rubber is hitting the road and our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has all the latest -- Dana?


DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, the public debate over health care has now moved behind the scenes here on Capitol Hill. And Democrats who have big majorities are trying to figure out exactly what the bill should look like so it can actually pass both the House floor and the Senate floor.

And now, more than ever, the struggle really lies within the Democratic Party -- especially over that controversial issue of whether to include a government-run insurance option. Now, in the House, there's broad Democratic support for this so-called public option. And it seems all but certain that they can and will pass a bill on the House floor in the coming weeks with the public option in it.

But the big question lies in the Senate because there really is a split. There are a number of conservative Democrats who say they just can't support a public option. So, both at the White House and here on Capitol Hill, Senate Democratic leaders are trying to navigate and trying to figure out exactly how to craft a bill that they can put on the Senate floor, that will pass. And they're going to have to do it soon because Democratic sources say they still want to do that on the Senate floor by the end of the month.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


GUPTA: All right. Thanks.

Of course, we're going to stay on this topic for the foreseeable future.

And addiction is in the spotlight again. And, right now, in England, there's a controversial program underway to threat addiction. Get this: it actually gives heroin to heroin addicts, all of it at the taxpayers' expense. Paula Newton has the history.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the right syringe with the right part (ph).

NEWTON: Ninety-seven percent pure better than anything sold on the street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This place only for clients.

NEWTON: And the British government is giving it to addicts for free in an effort to make them drug-free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is pure stuff. This is clinical stuff. This is a clinical procedure and this is medication.

NEWTON: A safe, steady supply of heroin is apparently just what the doctor ordered. A recent study suggests it's working. Reducing the use of street heroin by 3/4 and the crimes committed in trying to get that drug by 2/3.

For Sarah, a steady fix of heroin dispensed at a safe clinic was wraparound support has worked where nothing else has.

SARAH, DRUG THERAPY CLIENT: You'll always see an addict basically. It's about managing it and living a positive life.

NEWTON (on camera): It seems to be that taking heroin off the streets is making the difference, treating it like any other dangerous but necessary drug, and then matching that with intensive therapy and counseling.

JOHN STRANG, KING'S HEALTH PARTNERS: The intensity of the program is quite striking. The bond that is formed and the commitment that's established between the patient coming in for treatment and the staff is far greater than you ever would narrowly see.

NEWTON (voice-over): Professor Strang says the key seems to be treating heroin addiction like any other illness and then having the patients to see the treatment through. Even if that means the government is the drug dealer of choice for months, if not years.

The reduction in crime mirrors results in a handful of other countries. But the treatment is expensive, about $22,000 per patient, per year. But in Britain, they are coming to terms with the fact that keeping a person in prison costs almost three times more.

And so, as the encouraging results continue, Britain could one day set up permanent clinics around the country dispensing heroin for its most hard to treat addicts.

Paula Newton, CNN, London.


GUPTA: Well, there's no question that it's considered better than CPR. We'll tell you about a machine that's saving lives and cheating death.

And she was considered cold, she was considered gone, and she was considered dead. But doctors didn't give up on a nearly frozen victim of a ski accident in Norway. How she survived carries lessons for all of us.

And then caught between life and death. The truth about near- death experiences -- all of it on HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: And we are back with HOUSE CALL.

This morning, we're bringing you some really remarkable stories of people moving the line. People I have met from all over the world. And in some way, they're all challenging this idea of what being dead really means. You may be surprised to know that death can be reversed. In fact, a heart stopping is oftentimes only the beginning of your fight to live.


GUPTA: It was right here, September 14th, 2002, about a minute into the third quarter and Bob Schriever, the referee, was suddenly down. The fans, the players, and the television audience were about to be in for a shocking sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness, a referee collapsed on the field.

GUPTA (voice-over): For 65-year-old Bob Schriever, that video is sometimes still difficult to watch.

(on camera): You're suddenly down?


GUPTA: What did you have experience? What did you -- and did you have pain?

SCHRIEVER: Nothing. Nothing.

GUPTA (voice-over): Schriever was in cardiac arrest on this very field during a high school football game. A team trainer, armed with the schools brand new AED, or automated external defibrillator shocked him back to life.

SCHRIEVER: That's scary.

GUPTA: Schriever was choking up as he showed me the video that day. And then, he started to talk about what he remembered.

(on camera): What were you experiencing when everyone was seeing this?

SCHRIEVER: It's -- it's very peaceful. It's very serene. And it's extremely, extremely bright. I mean, it's bright. And I was -- I saw a place that I was supposed to go. I saw that halo and something was saying I go towards the halo.

GUPTA (voice-over): He says he was dead for two minutes and 40 seconds.

(on camera): So, this is the first time Bob has been back here. He just visited the place where he had a sudden cardiac arrest for the first time since it happened.

You know, he's going to toss the coin. Something he hasn't done in awhile.

SCHRIEVER: What do you call?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tails. He called tales.

SCHRIEVER: He has called tails. It's a head, you won the toss, your choice.

GUPTA (voice-over): But what happened on this field still haunts him.

(on camera): How often do you think about it?

SCHRIEVER: I think about that every morning when I wake up, first thing. During the day, I don't know how many times. And every night, before I fall asleep.



GUPTA: You know, I'm really glad we could tell that story of Bob Schriever. It really illustrates how the defibrillators work. They are fast becoming crucial in saving lives in public areas all across the country. A defibrillator delivers a jolt of electricity to sort of reboot the heart muscle and the heart rhythm.

CPR, of course, is still considered vital in the entire life- saving process and keeps blood flowing to your heart and to your brain. But only defibrillation can restore the heart's normal rhythm. Take a listen to one might sound like.


NARRATOR: Follow this voice's instructions. Make sure 911 is called now.


GUPTA: So, you're listening to basically what the -- it gives you very specific instructions on exactly what to do. And even after you put the pads on, it measures the heart rhythm. It will only give a shock if it's an abnormal heart rhythm. In case you're curious, the FDA has approved these devices for home use and have really, really easy to use instructions.

Now, resurrected from the snow and from ice. Imagine three hours without a heart beat. I'm still stunned by this. I talked with a woman whose body temperature plunged to 56 degrees after she got stuck in icy water.

Stay with HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: We are back with HOUSE CALL.

You know, extremely cold temperatures can either kill you or possibly save your life. It's of the truths about medicine. Just north of the Arctic Circle, in Norway, a woman was clinically dead for hours. But doctors used her nearly frozen condition to her advantage. She cheated death.


GUPTA (voice-over): Anna Bagenholm, a medical doctor was skiing. She arrived by helicopter at the University Hospital of North Norway. After a ski accident, she was clinically dead.

You see, Bagenholm's heart had stopped. She hasn't taken a breath in more than two hours and she was cold. Her core body temperature is just 56 degrees.

DR. MADS GILBERT, UNIV. HOSPITAL OF NORTH NORWAY: She has completely dilated pupils. She is ashen, flaxen white. She's wet. She's ice cold when I touch her skin, and she looks absolutely dead. No signs of life, whatsoever. And the decision was made, we will not declare her dead until she's warm.

GUPTA: Warm and dead. Why? Because cold drastically lowers the brain and the body's need for oxygen.

(on camera): Is too much cold bad?

GILBERT: Too much cold is a double-edged sword. It can kill you and it can save you.

GUPTA: It's amazing.

GILBERT: It's amazing. It will kill you if your heart stops from cold before your brain is cold, to put it very simply. It will protect you if you get cold enough before you have a cardiac arrest so that your organs do not need oxygen.

GUPTA: She had been trapped under ice in a mountain stream for 80 minutes. Doctors began to re-warm her blood. But take a look at this. What you are looking at is Anna's heart. GILBERT: I just saw some little shivering and suddenly, suddenly -- it contracted. And there was a pulse and -- a second contraction. Ahh -- everybody goes like that. And we had really tearful eyes, all of us, because it was a moment of victory.

GUPTA: She would be paralyzed for months after the accident. The cold, it turns out, is very devastating to her nerves. Her full recovery would take years.

But now, Dr. Anna Bagenholm is a doctor. A radiologist at the very same hospital where doctors refused to accept she was dead.

(on camera): Now, how close did you come to dying?


GUPTA: You died?

BAGENHOLM: I was dead. I was actually not, not in their manner of law. I wasn't dead because my brain still was working. But, my heart stopped.

If you ask a child, they would say I was dead for like three hours. If you ask a doctor, they have to say I was not dead because I wasn't brain dead.

GUPTA: You were clinically dead.

BAGENHOLM: Yes. I was clinically dead.

GUPTA: But you're here. I feel you.



GUPTA: You know, I want to sit down and talk to Anna's doctor a bit more about those gray area between life and death. Dr. Mads Gilbert says he learned quite a bit from Anna's experience on the edge.


GILBERT: In emergencies, time is a critical factor, because -- unlike other animals, we need a constant supply of oxygen to the brain. If you have an accident, if you have a cardiac arrest, if you have blood clot to one of the arteries to the brain or to the heart, every second means loss of cells. And the more cells you lose, the more organ deficiency you will have, organ dysfunction, and the more likely you will be to die.

It's all about buying time. It's all about doing this -- reverse it and keep this full and this one empty.

GUPTA: I mean, you go back and reversing things.

GILBERT: That's right. That's what we do when we do emergency assistance and anybody can do it. (INAUDIBLE).

GUPTA: Do you -- I mean, is it correct to say that it's reversing death? I mean, on one hand...

GILBERT: It's the line between stopping or reversing. I mean, the death process starts at the moment of the accident or the incident, causing some emergency. Then the death process, the death machine starts immediately. And what we do with medicine, be it airway opening, mouth-to-mouth breathing, chest compression, bleeding control, preventing hypothermia, it is actually to slow or even stop the death process.

So, it's really a struggle between life and death. And I always feel like we're standing in the shore with the tides coming up and we're trying to pull people from the tide of death and on to the dry land of life, in a sense.

GUPTA: It's a constant struggle, all over the world.


GUPTA: Back from the dead with a story to tell. A near-death experience and we're going to explain it as we continue to cheat death right here on HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Thanks for sticking with us on HOUSE CALL.

"Going toward the light" -- you may have heard that before. It's just one of the ways people who are brought back from the dead remember their experience on the other side. They've cheated death, and they often have this incredible story to tell.

But as we thought about it, and wondered if the brain might be the reason why.



GUPTA (voice-over): Laura Geraghty died six months ago, her vital signs, flat.

Dr. Bill O'Callahan...

DR. BILL O'CALLAHAN, NEWTON WELLSLEY HOSPITAL: She had no pulse, she had no blood pressure and she wasn't breathing on her own. I think most laymen would describe that as being dead.

GUPTA: Geraghty is a grandmother. She's also a school bus driver who, on that day, was heading to Newton South High School in Newton, Massachusetts, when she went into sudden cardiac arrest.

GERAGHTY: Pain went right up into my arm and right into my chest. And at that point, I said, "Uh-oh, I'm having a heart attack." GUPTA: The school nurse and CPR instructor rushed over with the defibrillator. The next 30 seconds went fast. Geraghty felt weak. She couldn't catch her breath.

(on camera): And then like that, she was unconscious.

GERAGHTY: I floated right out of my body. It just -- my body was here, and I just floated away.

GUPTA: What did you see?

GERAGHTY: What did I see? I see white. It was very peaceful.

GUPTA: When you looked at your body, were there people working on you?

GERAGHTY: I had seen people but I kept going. I went and I seen my -- I've seen my mom and I seen my ex-husband, and they both came, and it was very peaceful. It was just so peaceful, and this light, it was beautiful.

I remember trying to reach out to my ex-husband, and he would not take my hand, and then they floated away, and then I was there.


GUPTA (voice-over): And she was brought here, this is the emergency room at Newton Wellesley Hospital. Dr. Bill O'Callahan was just finishing up his shift when she was brought in. He shocked her a dozen more times, and still nothing.

O'CALLAHAN: We got to the point at the nearly hour mark where I actually said out loud in the room that I'm going to shock her three more times and we're going to have to stop, and she came back on the very third one, if you can believe that.

GUPTA: Incredibly, after 57 minutes -- 57 minutes -- Laura Geraghty was brought back from the dead. Even more amazing, she has no brain damage, but what she saw during her near-death experience still haunts her.

Dr. Kevin Nelson, he's a neurologist from Louisville, believes a near-death experience is what he calls a waking dream.

DR. KEVIN NELSON, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY: And we know that the visual system is robustly activated during dreaming and this accounts for the light that's commonly seen.

GUPTA (on camera): There's a tunnel a lot of people describe.

NELSON: The tunnel can be in part brought on by the eye.

GUPTA (voice-over): So, when the retina doesn't get enough blood, your vision goes dark, from the edges, toward the center, looks like a tunnel.

But Laura Geraghty insists what she felt was real, not a dream.

GERAGHTY: I know I went someplace else. I know there's a different place than, you know, here.


GUPTA: And for more on just how some scientists believe the brain is involved in a near-death experience, check out my book. We got some amazing stories in there. I've been working on it for a long time. It's called "Cheating Death." It's on sale now.

We'd also like to hear from you directly on Twitter at SanjayGuptaCNN. Use the hash tag miracle and tell us how you or someone you love has cheated death. Remember, daily contest winner, you're going to receive an autographed copy of the book. Also, be entered to win another prize, I'll try to show up via Skype at your next book club event to talk about cheating death.

Now, if you want to cheat death, check out the foods you're eating as well. How superfoods may reverse the damage caused by junk food and actually reverse.

That's on HOUSE CALL -- next.


GUPTA: You know, it doesn't take extraordinary events to cheat death. Some simple decisions you make every day can make your heart stronger.

Check out some of the top foods, they're called superfoods.


GUPTA (voice-over): Time to cut through all the clutter about what's really good for your heart. The biggest key, says registered dietitian Page Love, is reducing the levels of inflammatory compounds in your body.

PAGE LOVE, REGISTERED DIETITIAN: Inflammation is the body's response when disease is cultivating and often there are foods that can help do the opposite of that in the body.

GUPTA: So, what are these superfoods?

LOVE: Eating red really helps to decrease inflammation, for example, cherries, particularly, tart cherries, red grapes, tomatoes.

GUPTA: Blueberries and strawberries also topped the list as do leafy greens like spinach, even oatmeal.

LOVE: There's quite a bit of evidence showing that the fiber in oatmeal helps lowers cholesterol. It's one of the key disease- fighting breakfast foods.

GUPTA: If you're looking for a good snack food, try a can of nuts.

LOVE: Nuts are good protein source, a good healthy vegetable.

GUPTA: Avocados are also full of healthy unsaturated fats that can help boost good cholesterol. Oily fish like salmon are rich in cholesterol-lowering omega 3s which can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of clotting. Then, of course, is everybody's favorite, chocolate.

KATHERINE TALLMADGE, NUTRITIONIST, AMERICAN DIETITIC ASSN.: The cocoa is full of compounds called flavanols and produce a lot of benefits, relaxing blood vessels, reducing blood clotting, improving blood flow.

GUPTA: OK. But despite the benefits of chowing down on chocolate...

TALLMADE: Keep sweets or sort of extra foods to about 10 percent of your calories per day.

GUPTA: So, here's to your heart health.


GUPTA: Well, unfortunately that's all the time we have for today. If you missed any part of today's show, you can check out my podcast,

Also, be sure to watch my special tonight. It's called "Another Day Cheating Death" at 8:00 p.m., only here on CNN. I met doctors, and surgeons and patients, all of them doing some amazing things to move the line in what is considered death.

First, remember, this is the place for the answers to all of your medical questions. Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

More news on CNN starts right now.