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The Littlest Darth Vader Heads to Washington on Behalf of Families Who Need Medicare and Medicaid; Latest News About Cell Phone Safety; Former Players File Lawsuit Against the NFL Regarding Head Injuries; The History of Cocaine; Six Pack Member Check In

Aired July 23, 2011 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Hi, there I'm Doctor Sanjay Gupta. I have a lot to talk about this morning.

There is new news about cell phone safety.

Plus, football and head injuries, something we have been talking a lot about.

And a remarkable story about cocaine; when it first arrived on the world scene, its biggest early supporter was the young Doctor Sigmund Freud.

But we begin with this. Cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs are some of the hottest issues in these Washington budget talks. Behind those numbers, there are some real people. Including one little boy who likely stole your heart in the "Super Bowl" commercial. He's a little guy, he has a big mission and next week, Capitol Hill is going to feel the force.



GUPTA (on camera): Yes, sir.

PAGE: You're it.

GUPTA: I'm it?

(Voice over): Max Page only knows one speed, full steam ahead.

(On camera): I don't know if I can keep up with this kid.

(Voice over): Now, you have probably have seen Max before, even though you may not know it. Remember this Volkswagen ad from Super Bowl XIV? Darth Vader? No, just Max.

Within mere seconds of meeting him, Max was asking about my daughters.

GUPTA: Three girls.

PAGE: Let me guess, four year-old?


PAGE: Two-year-old?

GUPTA: Yep. You got it. How did you know?

PAGE: Because.

GUPTA (voice over): We are at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles with Max, and his brother Ells, to see Doctor Michael Silka.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you get your pacemaker checked?

MAX: Uh-huh.


GUPTA: That is right. Max has a pacemaker. Actually, it is his third, and he's only six years old. For parents Jennifer and Buck, the first sign of trouble came before Max was even born.

JENNIFER PAGE, MAX'S MOM: My 38-week appointment, we found out that Max had structural damage to his heart. They didn't know-they could not get a good heartbeat. They took him emergency C-section, born in a whirlwind.

BUCK PAGE, MAX'S DAD: The last feeling I remember is it is almost hopelessness, because it is out of my hands as a dad. As a dad, that is not something you are used to.

J. PAGE: I just said please just save my son. That is all we are here for. I don't know what you said. I don't understand anything you are going to do. I just-I need you to save my son. I need a chance to know this kid.

GUPTA: It is hard to imagine, but for mom and dad, it was all a blur. Max was born with a heart condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot. It is rare. It includes four separate problems in the heart which leads to a lack of oxygen in the blood. Without a pacemaker and eight major operations so far, Max probably would not be here.

(On camera): Can you feel it, Max? Can you feel the pacemaker?

MAX PAGE: If you like touch it or like something hits hit, that is kind of like when I ever feel it.

MICHAEL SILKA, CARDIOLOGIST, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF LA: It is like the movie "Cars." You know they show the pistons, and the engines going around. You want them working together, right? You don't want them going like this and the other one going at a different rate. You have to have them working together.

Something like this, for Max, or for any child like Max, should be cared for in a Children's Hospital? I mean, could any hospital- SILKA: Oh, no. This is a fairly sophisticated and fairly sub- specialized area of medicine. I'm a pediatric electro-physiologist doctor. There are probably slightly over 100 of us in the country. There are not that many people who really do what we do.

GUPTA: It is that kind of skill that brought Jennifer and Buck to the Children's Hospital. There are just 56 of them in the whole country. Doctor Robert Adler is the vice chair of pediatrics for the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles

(On camera): It seems like an obvious concept that, you know, a children's hospitals are going to be different that adult hospitals. But you say there are only 56 in the country?

DR. ROBERT ADLER, VICE CHAIR, PEDIATRICS, CHILDREN'S HOSP. OF LA: We represent just 1 percent of all hospitals in the United States. But we are responsible to train over 40 percent of all the pediatricians and 45 percent of all the pediatric specialists that take care of the kids.

GUPTA (voice over): Kids, like Max, who need specialized care from doctors trained through Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program, which is currently on the chopping block because of budget cuts in Washington.

J. PAGE: What we hear a lot is that there is not a big enough population. That translates to there are not enough sick kids, or kids don't make it long enough for their research to be done. My answer to that is there is one. His name is Max and he is mine. We will do whatever we can do.

GUPTA: Fortunately, the Pages are privately insured. But it is still expensive.

J. PAGE: Our insurance premium is more than our mortgage and our car payment, combined. So, it is a tremendous stretch for us to do it, but that is the level of care that Max requires.

GUPTA: In the face of massive budget crunches across the country, that kind of care may be at risk for kids who rely on Medicaid.

ADLER: There are about 30 million children who are now covered by Medicaid. It is the most common insurance for children. We see a lot of parents who have either lost their job recently, or having a hard time finding a job, who then come to us with Medicaid insurance. It is critical for us to be able to provide that for the children.

GUPTA (on camera): 30 million?

ADLER: 30 million.

GUPTA (voice over): On behalf of all of those kids, Max is headed to the nation's capital to put his "force" behind the National Association of Children's Hospitals.

GUPTA (On camera): What is the value of a place like this?

J. PAGE: When Max was three months old and they operated on his heart it was the size of a walnut. My heard is about the size of an orange. We were seeking a surgeon that knew about walnuts. You cannot just take your expertise and make it on something small.

GUPTA: He is so charming, so charismatic. I mean, in part-do you think that is a reflection of what he has been through?

J. PAGE: Absolutely. I say a lot of his acting and Hollywood success is because he was trained here. Because there is light and cameras and organized chaos, not everyone-barking out orders, and this little thing looking up.

GUPTA: What happens when you put on the--?

MAX PAGE: Helmet? I get the force. I'm kidding. I mean, I just like putting it on.

GUPTA: Do you feel different when you put the helmet on?


GUPTA: How do you feel?

MAX PAGE: I feel like happy and like cool.

GUPTA: You have the helmet anywhere around here?

Oh, right there.

MAX PAGE: That's right.

J. PAGE: Max is our home entertainment since we could not go out and about and do the typical mommy and me play dates. When the doctor finally said he can go and be around other children.

MAX PAGE (on stage): I hate my life right now!

J. PAGE: We got him involved in Little Itty Bitty Broadway program, locally.

GUPTA: You were three years old?

MAX PAGE: Yes. It was for four to eight-year-olds, but they let me in because I was like so talented.


GUPTA: And modest. Do you know what I mean by that?

MAX PAGE: I have no idea what modest means.

GUPTA (voice over): Which might come in handy when he goes to battle the Dark Side in Washington.

MAX PAGE: Bye, Doctor Gupta, it is nice meeting you.

GUPTA (On camera): Nice to meet you, too, Max. I want to come visit you again.

MAX PAGE: Well, I want to tell you one thing. Can you bring your daughters over here?

GUPTA: I knew you were going to ask that for some reason. Just before you said it, I thought, is he going to ask-I will bring my daughters. Thanks.

MAX PAGE: We don't do that in this world. We do this.



GUPTA: How could you possibly resist this little kid? He is crazy cute. He is headed to Washington bright and early Monday morning. You can see much more of him next weekend, only here on SGMD. You will see what he got accomplished with lawmakers and the scene he made as he stormed Capitol Hill in the Darth Vader costume.

Also check out his blog that his mom for us at

Up next, your breakfast this morning? Are you counting calories? Well, count again. Wait until you hear how much you are eating. Stay with us.


GUPTA: One of the hardest parts of staying healthy is counting calories. Something a lot of people try and do but it is not always easy. For example, this one serving of cereal, pour that into a bowl, that is about 110 calories. Problem is who eats just on serving, right?

And when you go out to eat, out to restaurants, they say they will do the math for you. The problem is the research out there is the numbers are not always accurate. Lauren Urban is a nutrition researcher at Tufts University. At her lab she grinds up meals, turns them into a powder to try to figure out just how many calories there really are. What she found is that one in five restaurant dishes has 100 more calories than the restaurants claim. Urban and her colleague, Susan Roberts, published their findings in this week's Journal of "American Medicine".


SUSAN ROBERTS, RESEARCHER, TUFTS UNIVERSITY: One food had more than 1,000 calories, more than it was supposed to, more than a 1,000 more. It was just shocking.


GUPTA: The National Restaurant Association points out on average the calorie counts given by restaurants are going to be accurate. Here is the issue. Many of the hidden calories were found in dishes that were hand prepared, and cooked from scratch. Those extra calories add up, a 100 extra calories a day is 10 to 15 extra pounds a year.

Also, you know, we have been talking a lot about cell phones. This week in San Francisco they became the first city requiring cell phone to come with warnings about radiation. This is a big deal. The city passed a law last year, requiring radiation levels to be disclosed, but the cell phone industry is still challenging that particular law in court.

Also 75 former professional football players sued the NFL and helmet maker Riddell this week. They claim that the league has known for decades that multiple concussions can result in long-term brain damage. And they hid it, in some way.

I have seen some of this research firsthand at Boston University School of Medicine, where researchers have found surprising signs of damage in many athletes who donated their brains to be studied before they died.

Now last year the NFL acknowledged that repeated blows can lead to depression, as well as this kind of long-term damage. But when asked about the new lawsuit, an NFL spokesman said, look, we are going to vigorously any claims of this kind. Riddell says it cannot comment on any pending litigation. We will stay on top of this.

Some good news now, though, about another young man who suffered a traumatic brain injury. He had a terrifying car crash. He was an aspiring comedian named Will Carter. He wasn't sure if he would ever be able to return to the stage. But thanks to some pretty incredible new technology, and laughs, Will is back in the spotlight once again. Take a look.


GUPTA (voice over): Will Carter always loved making people laugh. When he was a child, he dreamed of becoming a comedian. If you asked him at 17, he would have said his biggest obstacle was fear of failure. That changed a horrific car accident. And when his family feared the worst.

BOB CARTER. WILL'S DAD: They had to remove part of his scull brain flap because the brain had swollen.

He had a collapsed lung, he lost his spleen.

B. CARTER: He was in a coma for three weeks.

I was driving home one night. I just thought, oh my goodness, my son has a brain injury. Does he have a future?

Will, do you need somebody to pick you up tonight?

W. CARTER: Robert can give me a ride home. GUPTA (voice over): After years of physical therapy, Will did recover. But he lost a lot of his independence. He could not drive. He had to depend on his parents to give him rides. He relied on his friends. He had to put his dreams on hold.

W. CARTER: I love, love doing comedy. There is nothing, there is no energy in this world like being on stage.

GUPTA: Will did not give up. He was determined to overcome his brain injury with the help of this: A device called the electronic driving coach. It helps cue Will so he doesn't get distracted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scanning ahead in your lane helps you to be safe. Do it best when you plan ahead.

GUPTA: And a driving instructor and Will has learned to drive again.

W. CARTER: I can tend to be a day dreamer. I just get distracted by my own thoughts. That is why it is great to have Michelle in the car, cueing me. When she is not cueing me, I have the device cue me.

GUPTA: It has taken over a year of practice, but today he is driving alone with just the device at his side.

W. CARTER: It is really awesome just to have that independence. For me to be able to have control of my life, to feel like an adult.

GUPTA: And he is back on stage, performing standup comedy and applying to graduate school to share with others the joy of making people laugh.

W. CARTER: I think I know where all of the forest fires are coming from.



GUPTA: And coming up, something else that was really quite surprising to me. A doctor, a medical detective of sorts, has peeled back the case of Dr. Sigmund Freud and his enthusiasm for cocaine. It is an old story with a modern twist. Up next.


GUPTA: Long before drug cartels and crack and TV shows about addition, cocaine was introduced to the world in a very different light. It was promoted as a wonder drug, sold as a cure all, written up in medical journals and praised by some of the greatest minds in medical history, like Sigmund Freud.

A medical historian and a former professor of mine at the University of Michigan, Doctor Howard Markel, tells a story in a new book. It is called "An Anatomy of Addiction." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: 1884, Vienna, a struggling young doctor, Sigmund Freud wrote to his fiance Martha about a new interest, cocaine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are forward, you shall see who is the stronger. A gentle little girl who doesn't eat enough, or a big wild man who has cocaine in his body. In my last severe depression, I took coca again, and a small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion.

GUPTA: Historian Howard Markel says Freud first learned of cocaine in medical journals.

DR. HOWARD MARKEL, AUTHOR, "AN ANATOMY OF ADDICTION": What is fantastic about this journal, and many like it, it was published by a drug company, by a pharmaceutical house called Parke Davis, which not by coincidence, happened to be the major manufacturer of cocaine.

Cocaine comes from leaves of the cocoa plant. Native Americans and Spanish explorers have known this plant for centuries. By the 1880s, big companies, what we called big pharma, were distilling the raw leaf into a new drug.

MARKEL: Which of course doctors love, because they want to give an exact precise dose to their patients.

GUPTA: In Vienna Doctor Freud was fascinated. In 1884 he wrote the first major description, 70 pages, "Uber Coca" about cocaine. By then, the secret was out.

MARKEL: It was the miracle drug. If you had a stomach ache, if you were nervous, if you were lethargic, if you needed energy, if you had tuberculosis, if you had asthma, if you had all sorts of things, it was going to cure what you had. This was how it was advertised, too.

GUPTA: For the Parke Davis company, cocaine was a blockbuster. But others sold it, too. One popular product was Vin Mariani, endorsed says Doctor Markel by Thomas Edison, Queen Victoria and even Pope Leo XIII. French Bordeaux, with six milligrams of cocaine in every ounce. In Atlanta a Civil War vet named John Pemberton made a copy cat wine. Then had to shift gears when his hometown put a ban on alcohol.

MARKEL: So the great mother of invention took Cola nuts, and soda water and syrup, and made a refreshing drink we call Coca-Cola.

GUPTA: Meanwhile, by the mid 1890s Sigmund Freud was flirting with disaster as he wrote in an 1895 letter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need a lot of cocaine.

MERKEL: He finally probably stopped using it after he, and a friend of his, used cocaine on a patient and nearly killed her.

GUPTA: By then, other doctors worried, too.

MERKEL: Too many people were taking too much cocaine and they these patients were presenting, basically, as addicts who needed the stuff. They could not live without it. That is when doctors began to say, huh, we better rethink this.

GUPTA: By 1903, there was no more cocaine in coca-cola. By 1920 cocaine was illegal, without a doctor's prescription.

MERKEL: But you saw it, even into the 1920s and 1930s, the Cole Porter song, "I Get No Kicks From Champagne," the next lyric is

LOUIS ARMSTRONG, SINGING: Some get a kick from cocaine.

MERKEL (voice over): One sniff bores me terrifically.

ARMSTRONG: I'm sure that if I took even one more sniff that would hold me to mid-June (ph)

MERKEL: You saw it as well in Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times". He is in jail and he accidentally takes cocaine that he thinks is salt. Because another jail bird puts his supply of cocaine in the salt shaker. He is doing all sorts of wonderfully wacky things under the influence. You saw cocaine mentioned in movies and songs and stories all the time, well into the 1930s in this country, and elsewhere.

(On camera): It then had a lull and didn't come back into the late-well, the mid to late '70s and early '80s, when again cocaine was a glamour drug.

GUPTA: The new sound track was Eric Clapton.

MERKEL: It was the drug that all of the rock stars used, and the glitterati. It was freely consumed at place like Studio 54. It was really part of the popular Zeitgeist in the late 1970s. It was an entirely safe drug. That was clean and pure and could be abused safely.

GUPTA: Just like a century before, it was a mirage. No more Charlie Chaplin, the new image was more like "Scarface."

What would Freud, Sigmund Freud think about "Scarface?"

MERKEL: That is an interesting question. I imagine he would have been shocked.

GUPTA: By the mid-1980s there was crack and crime and rampant addiction. Today, we know addiction is at least in part a physical disease. We understand more.

MERKEL: I would hope that more people are skeptical of grandiose claims of new drugs, new pharmaceutical agents.

We all, in our heart of hearts, want a magic bullet that will cure what ails us. GUPTA: A magic bullet. The hope that keeps miracle drugs in business, time and time again.


GUPTA: It is so striking the same misconceptions, the same mistakes pretty much exactly 100 years apart.

Here is something a lot more healthy. I crossed the finish line. I really did it. Along with the Fit Nation tri-athletes last summer. Two weeks from now, we are going to do it again. Straight ahead, a checkup a member of our Six Pack. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Just two weeks from today, six of our viewers and I will be standing on the banks of the Hudson River, in New York, ready to jump in. It starts the Nautica New York City Triathlon. It will be my second time. For our Six Pack it will mark the end of a huge change from the sedentary lives they used to lead and hopefully the beginning of a healthy lifestyles that they will continue to live.

Joining me from Kansas City is one of those soon to me tri- athletes, Stasia Cirricione Leone.

Stasia, we have been at this for some time. Let me ask you, how has the training been going for you?

STASIA CIRRICIONE, CNN FIT NATION TRI-ATHLETE: It has been going good. It's hot here in the Midwest but I'm definitely chugging through to get everything done. I can't wait for the New York City Triathlon.

GUPTA: That is good to hear. You have a lot of anticipation. The heat wave is something that everybody has talked about. What have you done specifically to get your workouts in?

CIRRICIONE: As much as I hate it I've been waking up early before the sunrises and getting out there before the sun is really pounding down and the humidity starts to affect you too much.

GUPTA: Those early morning wake up calls, not easy but important. In February you said, I remember you telling us you came from a meat and potatoes family, was how you described it. And you just never really learned how to keep yourself in shape. What have you learned? How has that changed for you?

CIRRICIONE : It's been 180 degree turn around. I've worked with (AUDIO GAP) also my coach just to learn to eat smaller meals throughout the day to stave off that, I'm ravenous hunger feeling. I've gone from not eating a breakfast, and having fast food for lunch, and whatever else for dinner, to eating smaller meals through the day that are actually healthy and give me more energy. So I can do my workouts and be the best that I can be.

GUPTA: Stasia, I can't wait to see you in New York. Start that race together and give you a big hug at the finish line.

CIRRICIONE: Sounds good. Can't wait to see you.

GUPTA: If you want to follow along with me, and Stasia, or any members of the Six-Pack, logon to See much more there on our Fit Nation challenge.

Thanks for being with us this morning. Time now to get you back into the CNN NEWSROOM for a check of our top stories making news right now.