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Soldier Recounts Fort Hood Attack; Malaria Mystery Solved

Aired November 14, 2009 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting to you from Fort Hood in Texas.

First up, we're going straight inside one of the hospitals where so many of the injured were treated. We're going to talk to the doctors and also to a patient and hear a chilling, somewhat remarkable firsthand account of exactly what happened.

Also, there's a dangerous chemical out there. It's in your water bottles possibly, in your soda cans. What exactly is it and what is being done to protect you? We are investigating that.

And virus hunters believe they have found it, the origins of one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. We are tracking a pathogen.

You are watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: But first, as you might imagine, the mood here in Fort Hood is still quite somber. I had a chance to go inside one of the hospitals and spend a lot of time with Specialist Logan Burnette. He had just come to Fort Hood the day before this attack happened. It was his first full day on the base and he was shot three times.

What he told me is something I think I will never forget. Take a listen.


GUPTA: What was the first thing you remember when something was not right?

SPC. LOGAN BURNETTE, U.S. ARMY: The blood, seeing blood coming from everywhere.

GUPTA (voice-over): November 5th, it started as a normal day for Army Specialist Logan Burnette. He went to what his called Fort Hood's ready room, filling out papers, preparing to ship out to Iraq. Then, as he describes it, all hell broke loose.

BURNETTE: I got down once the shots were fired, out of instinct. And, you know, I didn't know what to think, but seeing bullet wounds in the back of a friend's head, seeing, you know, friends grabbing their arms and blood just everywhere.

GUPTA: Yes. BURNETTE: It's a -- it's a pretty hard thing to see. And not having any way of defending yourself.

GUPTA: You saw a bullet in the back of your friend's head?


GUPTA (voice-over): Authorities now say it was Major Nidal Hasan who was pulling the trigger, spraying those bullets, killing Specialist Burnette's fellow soldiers.

(on camera): Did you see the guy?

BURNETTE: Yes. He was about from me to that wall. The first thing I saw was the laser sights on his handgun.

GUPTA: What did he look like? And what was he -- was he -- did he look angry? Did he look mad?

BURNETTE: Serious and intent. He stood up and screamed "Allahu Akbar" and then just started shooting.

GUPTA: He screamed "Allahu Akbar."

BURNETTE: He did, at the top of his lungs.

GUPTA: "God is great."

BURNETTE: Yes. He didn't even walk in, like he -- it was like he had been in the room for awhile, in the corner, preparing. You know he was really paying attention. It was like he just stood up and began firing on all of us and then taking steps and reloading and firing again. Reloading and firing again.

GUPTA (voice-over): Burnette had been hit and he didn't even know it. He was crawling away, but the gunman kept coming closer, kept firing. Burnette felt hunted.

BURNETTE: And as I was crawling, he hit me in the elbow and once again...

GUPTA (on camera): So, you're crawling away and he's shooting at you?


GUPTA: He wanted to kill you.

BURNETTE: He wanted to kill all of us.

GUPTA: I feel almost silly asking this question, but I don't know the answer it. What did it feel like to get shot?

BURNETTE: I've felt extreme pain throughout here, all throughout my abdomen. I didn't even know I really been hit in the hip. I knew my leg wasn't working right for some reason. So, I didn't know where I gotten hit. I could see visually my arm and I could see my pinkie, and I saw that. When my arm got hit, I was already on the ground.

A great E6, or I wish I could remember his name, a staff sergeant, kind of grabbed by the collar of my ACU top and dragged me inside. And just as soon as he grabbed me, he's told me everything is going to be all right. He got me back into the office, locked the office door, and began first aid on me. So...

GUPTA: That's heroic.

BURNETTE: Yes. I have no idea what his name was.

GUPTA: You think he -- did you think you, at any point during this, that you were going to die?

BURNETTE: I said "Our Father" probably 1,000 times laying there on the office floor, praying to myself. Yes. The thought crossed my mind quite a few times.

GUPTA (voice-over): And here's what happened next -- just a few minutes later, doctors here at Metroplex got a call that eight wounded soldiers were going to come in through this emergency room. They quickly determined that Logan Burnette was one of the most serious and off to the operating room he went.

Let's take a look.

The bullet came very close to his blood vessels, though?


GUPTA: If it had been just a little bit further back?

BURBRIDGE: If it would have been one inch further back. It would have taken out the blood vessels to his leg and he very could have bled to death right there.

GUPTA: Specialist Burnette has had two operations, and he has more to come. He is beaten. He is battered. But he as also told me he has had time to think.

(on camera): There's a brotherhood, a sisterhood, that I've always seen when I've traveled, the military all over the world. Your brother takes a shot at you?

BURNETTE: Right. Three times and shoots at all your other brothers. It's a -- it's definitely a strange feeling.

GUPTA: Did you ever, in your wildest imagination, imagine something like this happening here on U.S. soil, here in the United States?

BURNETTE: No. I mean, don't get me wrong, I guess I could picture it happening in the United states, but, we were never prepared for a hometown or home station attack. But we were preparing to go fight in countries overseas. We're not preparing to fight people wearing our uniform and -- who live in our barracks, who go to the same chow halls we go to every day.

GUPTA: What do you think should happen to him?

BURNETTE: I'd like to make sure, one way or another, he can never hurt anybody else.


GUPTA: Now, for Specialist Burnette, he's next step is he's going to Brooke Army Medical Center where he's going to need a lot of rehab, weeks, if not months of it. It also happens to be the hospital where Hasan is being treated as well. For the latest on him, we turn to Barbara Starr.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, the now- accused gunman, Major Nidal Hasan remains hospitalized at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. He was taken off ventilator there just a few days ago.

Officials are releasing few details about his condition other than to say he is stable and recovering from the four gunshot wounds he received during the incident at Fort Hood.

He's now reported to have spoken with some of the hospital staff, but no details are being released about those conversations.

Brooke, of course, has treated hundreds of troops, amputees, burn victims injured from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq over the years. And ironically, some of the victims of Fort Hood are expected to go to Brooke Army Medical Center for their rehabilitation.

Hasan continues to get medical care at the hospital and he remains in custody of the authorities. Officials tell us security measures at Brooke have been stepped up for as long as he remains there -- Sanjay.


GUPTA: All right. Thanks, Barbara.

Now, there's a not-so-typical doctor out there who's got a not- so-typical solution to the health care problem. We'll tell you what it is.

And virus hunters believe they have found the origins of one of the deadliest on the planet. It kills more than a million people a year. I'll tell you what it is and where they found it.

You're watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: We are back with HOUSE CALL. And as you know, this is your destination for all things health care. While Congress battles over what to do about health care, outside of Washington, doctors are trying to find solutions on their own. Photojournalist Deborah Brunswick caught up with Dr. David Ores in New York City, he's not your typical M.D., all of it starting with a Harley.


DR. DAVID ORES, STARTED HEALTH CARE CO-OP: I like motorcycles because it's like a rollercoaster that goes anywhere.

Most doctors don't have motorcycles or tattoos or do not-for- profit work. And that's kind of sad, because it's really fun.

My name is Dr. David Ores and I've been practicing medicine since 1987.

Here today to talk for a couple of minutes about the restaurant health care cooperative -- which is health care for all of guys.

I started the health care cooperative six, eight months ago. It's a little local community health system that provides not for profit health care for people who work in restaurants. Restaurants, the owners or management, contribute a small amount of money every month into a common fund. And then that fund is used to treat the workers and staff with any kind of medical issue or problem they have.

Hey, Dr. Dave.

BILLY GILROY, RESTAURANT OWNER: We want to take care of our people, but financially, we're only capable of doing so much.

This is so affordable. It's like such a win-win that we really are excited about it because you feel like you're being part of something that could really change things.

CHRIS MACPHERSON, RESTAURANT WORKER: Not your cliche doctor, I suppose. But obviously, he cares a lot about his patients.

ORES: Is that painful doing that?

MACPHERSON: The hospitality industry is a big industry, a big part of New York City. So, it's great that somebody sort of looking out for their backs.

ORES: The last 10 to 15 years, I've seen lots of people from these places who have no help, they have nowhere to go, they no one to turn to. Somebody needs to help them and probably lots of other people, too. But you've got to start somewhere.

I think the idea of not-for-profit is what I'm getting out there. The fact this is restaurant workers is one thing, but this not-for- profit notion could work in any industry.

I think it is special and I think it is great. But it disheartens me that it is those things. It really should not be special. It should not be great. It should be the way things work.


GUPTA: Dr. Ores there, putting a dent in a big problem. In fact, a 2005 survey found 73 percent of New York restaurant workers have no health insurance.

Now, just up the road in Rhode Island, two doctors are experimenting with the solution of their own, they're making house calls and they're spending more time with patients. All of that may sound like boutique medicine to you, but these doctors are doing this to save money. We'll tell you how.

Photojournalist Bob Crowley has the story.


DR. ANDREA ARENA, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Barrington Family Medicine, Dr. Arena.

My partner Lisa and I opened a small practice -- I think it's been a year and a half ago now. When you walk in the door, you're going to see a big arrangement of flowers where you normally would see a secretary sitting. There's no staff.

DR. LISA DENNY, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: We don't have a secretary. We don't have a nurse. We don't have an office manager.

ARENA: You're going to probably not see other patients because we don't double-book. We put the bill there because we got tired of hearing people say, "Are you there?"

Hi, Jennifer.

It's called ideal medical practice.

How have you been?

Having fewer patients in your practice allows you to spend more time with them. And the idea is to just lower your overhead so that you can see fewer patients, spend more time with patients, really focus on quality care.

DENNY: Barrington Family Medicine.

This is a practice that's been completely redesigned.

What can we help you with?

We use computers a lot to do what usually a staff does. So we can click a button and our prescriptions get sent off to the pharmacy and we can push a button and our referrals get faxed over.

Do you have your insurance card?

And our computer automatically e-mails patients before their visits so we don't have to call each one to remind them about their appointment.

And we wanted to be the kind of doctors that we are trained to be. We both really value the relationship with our patients.

ARENA: We're doing a home visit for a newborn who needs a weight check. He's two weeks old. We learn a lot by going to people's homes. Yes, this is it.



ARENA: How are you doing?


ARENA: Not many people do house calls.

Hi, big guy.

It's great for the patients. Lovely for a mom with three toddlers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard to get out the door with a newborn so it's nice to have them come to you.

ARENA: See you guys!


ARENA: Bye-bye.

DENNY: This is what the medical assistant usually does.

ARENA: I mean, in the traditional primary care doctor's office, you need to see patients quickly, every 10 minutes in a traditional setting. I think that's where you have the doctor holding on to the door handle saying, everything else OK, right? Nothing else is a problem because you don't have time to address it if you get a positive answer.

DENNY: It's like it was I imagine 60 years ago. It's not a stressful work environment. It's kind of fun.


GUPTA: We are going beyond the headlines on health care, taking you across the country, trying to examine what works, what doesn't. Check out for more firsthand stories

Now, a potentially dangerous chemical, it could be in your baby bottle, soda cans, maybe even your plastic wrap. And now, the state of Massachusetts health officials are advising mothers to avoid using or storing infant formula in plastic baby bottles that contain Bisphenol A or BPA. That's a chemical that could possibly hurt the development of infants. Now, we sat down and asked the new FDA commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, what her plans specifically are regarding BPA.


DR. MARGARET HAMBURG, FOOD AND DRUG ADMIN. COMMISSIONER: It is important to recognize that BPA is in many different products and that the risk/benefit ratio may be different in certain products and that there may be some areas where even without a recommendation from the FDA, informed consumers may want to reduce any potential risk, such as in baby bottles.


GUPTA: Uncovering the origins of malaria. How it might save human lives.

You're watching HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Possible major breakthrough now in a medical who done it? A team of researchers say it has tracked down the origins of one of the most deadly killers on the planet -- it's malaria. And while malaria isn't a big problem in the developed world, a find like this, how animals transmit to humans could help us with these discoveries about outbreaks of all sorts, like the H1N1, for example, the swine flu virus.

Now, I'll tell you, it was incredible to watch firsthand how these hunters track down this killer.


GUPTA (voice-over): Deep in the jungles of Africa, Nathan Wolfe is on the hunt. Wolfe is a pathogen hunter, looking to unlock the mystery of one of nature's greatest killers, the source of malaria.

He's been at it for more than a decade, working with people who hunt these forests to take blood samples of the animals they kill -- animals that could provide the answer. Through those blood samples, they then work with research animals, Wolfe says he and his team have solved the riddle.

(on camera): There's a particular chimpanzee in here, Max. What has Max taught us about viruses?

NATHAN WOLFE, PATHOGEN HUNTER: What we've found in Max and a couple of other chimpanzees and on the Ivory Coast is actually malaria parasites will give us really the answer to an old riddle, namely, what is the origin of malaria? Where did it come from? And the answer is actually...


WOLFE: ... we discovered it came from chimpanzees, yes, just like Max.

GUPTA: So, malaria comes from chimpanzees. We can say that for sure now.

WOLFE: That's right.

GUPTA: You're a virus hunter, a pathogen hunter. How hard was it to hunt malaria?

WOLFE: We've been chasing this for some time some time. So, it was pretty exciting for us to nail it.

GUPTA (voice-over): They nailed it by first identifying strains of malaria found in chimpanzees and comparing them to strains killing humans globally. It turns out, genetically, they're nearly identical -- except the chimpanzee strain is older. All of that suggests that chimpanzees pass malaria to humans.

(on camera): There's this interface, if you will, between animals and humans so important because they can actually exchange viruses, they can exchange pathogens, things you may have heard of like HIV, Ebola, Marburg, even parasites like malaria. The question is: Exactly how does that swapping take place? And I think more importantly for researchers: What can they do about it?

(voice-over): Knowing the origins of a disease, even the close relatives to it, could be a huge step towards stopping it.

More than 30 years ago, scientists used a close relative of human smallpox found in cows to create a vaccine for humans. Whether the same will happen with Wolfe's discovery is still unknown. He and his colleagues believe it is a major breakthrough and only the beginning.

WOLFE: We know very little about the diversity of microorganisms even within our own bodies, let alone within other animals. And really, that's one of the things we're just beginning to do, is to sort of begin to describe this iceberg. We know a lot of it is underwater. I think it's part of the excitement scientifically for those of us who are out there trying to discover these things.


GUPTA: Now, one reason this study is getting so much attention -- the high stakes. Malaria kills more than a million people every year and many of them are children.

And borderline cholesterol and a new link to Alzheimer's disease, we're going to tell you if you might be at risk.

Stay with HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL.

Some news out this week that caught my eye -- elevated cholesterol levels in your 40s could increase a person's risk for Alzheimer's. In fact, a new study finds having high cholesterol in your 40s raises your risk for Alzheimer's by 66 percent. But your cholesterol numbers don't even have to be that high, just even borderline cholesterol -- those levels have a 25 percent greater risk of getting Alzheimer's as well.

Borderline cholesterol, in case you're curious, is between 200 and 239. Anything above that is considered high. To do all the math, more than 106 million Americans have borderline numbers.

And keep in mind, cholesterol problems can strike many healthy people as well. So, as we say so often on this show, you need to know your numbers.

Now, good news is, there are steps you can take today to lower those numbers and experts we've talked to say your best option is sort of a three-pronged approach. Now, we wanted to be specific with you here on HOUSE CALL. So, let me give you a little bit of an idea of what we're talking about.

When we talk about -- and we talk about your numbers overall, we are talking about diet, and it's summertime and it's a good time to sort of start a Mediterranean diet -- which means lots of olive oil, nuts, whole grain, fresh fruits and vegetables. It's summertime, you can start a diet like this today. In fact, at morning time, put some nuts on your cereal, that's something that could possibly help.

Also, when we talk about exercise, how much is too much, how much is enough. You hear different numbers on this as well. Thirty minutes every day, that's the minimum amount that you need. You need to schedule that in. You need to make it a priority.

Now, if you're in weight loss mode -- which so many of us are -- you need to sort of amp that up to about 60 minutes a day and that's going to help with your numbers as well.

And, finally, stress busting. And we don't talk about this enough probably on HOUSE CALL, but this idea that you can bust stress in some ways, there's also things you can do: meditation, yoga, prayer, breathing exercises.

I spend about 10 minutes a day doing meditation because I think it makes a huge difference for me. It might be helping my cholesterol but it certainly helps my peace of mind.

Now, all of these things, in addition to helping stave off heart disease and possibly Alzheimer's, will help you live a longer and stronger life. Good news there.

Up next: The benefits of a good heart rate monitor. Do all runners out there need one? "Ask the Doctor," my favorite segment, that's after the break.


GUPTA: It's time for our segment "Ask the Doctor." Let's jump right in. Here's a question from the "Four Months to Fitness" blogs. Terry asks this, "I'd love some advice on choosing a heart rate monitor."

Well, it turns out, Terry, our folks at recently gave some great advice on this, advice that I paid attention to as well. There's a lot of monitors out there. New monitors are equipped with GPS, speed calculating shoe sensors and data analysis tracking every detail and your performance over time.

They say the new Garmin Forerunner 310XT is the optimal choice, but it is very expensive. It's almost $350. It does work anywhere in the world, you can get your heart rate, you can measure movement, elevation, distance and speed.

Now, if you're looking for something more affordable, like a lot of people, Nike offers a slim watch size Nike Plus Sport Band, about $59. Displays your distance, pace and calories burned. It holds about 30 hours worth of workout data.

Check out more options as well at

Unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. If you missed any part of today's show, be sure to check out my podcast at

And 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.