American Morning

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June 3rd, 2009
04:00 PM ET

We Listen!

Wednesday’s American Morning received comments surrounding the stem cell story, as viewers remarked that experimental treatments in the U.S. must be paid for by patients, and that the U.S. would be far more advanced on such research had Al Gore been in office.

  • Carli: I just watched your report on stem cell treatments in foreign countries. The comment that really upset me was that these treatments are experimental and there should be no charge for them. Right here in the good old USA "experimental treatments" are used to treat patients every day and people have to pay for them. No health insurance company would pay for an "experimental" treatment" but that is how new treatments are developed. The insinuation that because they are asking for payments makes it a scam is upsetting. 25 years ago my father was diagnosed with cancer which was treatable by an "experimental treatment" at his expense. Currently, that treatment that was experimental is the standard of care for the type of cancer he had. He had to pay for the treatment that extended his life. So just because there is not enough data to say something works and there is a request for payment to use that treatment, does not mean it is a scam.
  • Marlin: I do not know whether these treatments are authentic or not . I do know had Al Gore assumed the presidency in 2000 (as rightfully elected) this country would be at the forefront of stem cell research instead of people going to foreign countries to receive treatment. Had an administration been in power during the Clinton -Gore years I will assure you we would never had been where we were at in the computer and cyber world. This is the difference between a forward looking administration and one who was married to the religious right and therefore made little progress in stem cell research. The same can be said for all infrastructure progress. Tax cuts for the wealthy and borrow money from China to finance our wars. That was their policy for 8 years.

How do you feel about stem cell research? Do you know someone suffering from a debilitating disease who could benefit from experimental treatments?


Filed under: We Listen
June 3rd, 2009
10:45 AM ET

Bulgari – A Roman Empire

Richard Burton once said of Elizabeth Taylor, “I taught Liz about beer, she taught me about Bulgari.”

When I was invited to attend the 125th anniversary celebration for the luxury house Bulgari, I immediately thought – what a great excuse to go to Rome! Then, I started looking into the rich history of the company and realized this could be a great story, too. Nothing like mixing a little business with a lot of pleasure!

Shooting the story was fun but grueling. Rome was in the middle of a heat wave – it was 90 degrees! So hot, we stopped shooting at one point so that Nicola Bulgari – Vice Chairman of the company and my escort for the day – could treat us to iced coffees – the Italian version is delicious!

After shooting a half-day in Rome, we drove two hours to the Bulgari’s home in Tuscany. Right out of a movie set. After a casual lunch in the garden, we sat down for the interview. Among the many stories Mr. Bulgari told me – Imelda Marcos used to call him in the middle of the night to have jewels delivered to her hotel room in New York. How’s that for obsession?

Filed under: Pop Culture
June 3rd, 2009
10:05 AM ET

On trial in North Korea

You've seen their faces – the two American journalists captured and accused of spying in North Korea. Today, they are set to go on trial. The sister of one of the journalists, reporter Lisa Ling has pleaded for their release. CNN's Jason Carroll reports on what a trial in North Korea could mean.

Filed under: North Korea
June 3rd, 2009
10:01 AM ET

Inside Dr. Gupta's operating room

By Danielle Dellorto, CNN Medical Producer

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I waited outside the employee parking lot of Grady Memorial Hospital Monday morning. My assignment for the day? Produce a story on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s life outside of CNN – his life as a trauma neurosurgeon. For the past three years I’ve been producing stories for him – but this time he was my story.

He greeted our crew a little before 5 a.m. with a familiar smile and diet soda in hand. Wasting no time with chit-chat, he scurried into the hospital, quickly changed into scrubs, then was off to his “home away from home”, O.R. 14. He had three cases scheduled by the time we arrived – a brain surgery and two spinal fusions.

First up – clipping a ruptured brain aneurysm.

My heart raced as I stood on pins and needles watching a critical part of the operation, during which the patient had an interoperative brain bleed. “I always like to tell people we spend 99% of our preparation on the 1% of things that happen.” Sanjay’s team didn’t flinch. They knew she’d be losing a liter of blood in just seconds and to prevent disaster, they raced to stop the bleed. Mission accomplished. It was a scary 90 seconds for a bystander like myself watching it all go down, so what really struck me was how calm and focused his team was the entire time.

“When you have an aneurysm rupture like that and you are losing a liter of blood over several seconds, it makes any TV live shot you've ever done look not that scary. I know if I don’t get that thing stopped within a couple of minutes, the patient won’t survive,” he explained.

No doubt their neuro team is a well-oiled machine. It was especially fascinating to watch Dr. Gupta interact with his residents. “Many of my residents have never done cases like this so I get to show them for the first time how to do these procedures, which is pretty interesting for me and for them,” Gupta said. Between critical moments in the O.R. they chatted like comrades. Everything from rock concerts, to their love lives to real estate – joking around like old friends.

One thing that is “very important” during surgery: the music. I watched as they took turns flipping through the iPod. Dr. Gupta gave me his ultimate playlist for brain surgery: open with Gypsy Kings or Rise by Eddie Vedder and close the surgery with Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Mr. Brightside. Solid picks, Doc!

The morning flew by fast. By 10am, Dr. Gupta and his team had already saved one life. By 10pm, that tally was up to three. Overall, it was incredibly exciting to not only see a whole other side of Sanjay on the job, but also see inside the human brain!

Want to see more in the weeks to come? Follow Sanjay on Twitter @sanjayguptacnn. He posts cool pics each week from the operating room!

Filed under: Dr. Gupta's Mailbag • Health
June 3rd, 2009
09:26 AM ET

Is recovering Flight 447 possible?

Today, an armada of ships is converging on an area about 400 miles northeast of the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha. Some are carrying submersibles that can work miles underwater, all to start piecing together the disaster of Air France Flight 447, which disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean.

One expert said it could be the hardest recovery since the search to find the Titanic, which took decades. Underwater recovery expert John Perry Fish spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.

John Roberts: What will searchers be looking for at this point in their operation? And what kind of topography of the ocean floor are they going to be searching in?

John Perry Fish: The searchers are going to be looking for a very important piece of equipment called a digital flight data recorder… These record many, many parameters of the flight, the aircraft, its attitude, even the amount of force that one of the pilots might put on a pedal. And it’s very important to find these in order to find out what happened to the flight. Attached to each of these data recorders is what we call a “pinger.”

It puts out an acoustic pulse once a second for 30 days as soon as it's submerged in the water and these contacts are joined by electrical forces. So it's important to find these. And they'll be looking for these in an area that's fairly deep, as deep as a couple of miles and also part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is a mountainous area that runs all the way from Iceland down into the South Atlantic.


Filed under: Technology • Transportation
June 3rd, 2009
06:16 AM ET

U.S. patients try stem cell therapies abroad

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Sierra Journey Factor, 8, has a muscular disease that her mom, Shaylene Akery, hopes can be treated in China."]

By Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit

TITUSVILLE, Florida (CNN) - It's shortly after 5 a.m. when the phone rings, and on the line is a clearly anxious and worried parent.

"Sierra is having a lot of problems tonight," Shaylene Akery tells a CNN producer. "We have to take her to the hospital, but we still want to talk to you about her trip to China."

Her daughter, Sierra Journey Factor, is 8 years old and has a terminal disease called Type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects parts of the nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. In addition, she has a restrictive lung disease and a kidney disorder. She has used a wheelchair since infancy.

Sierra's mother, her stepfather and her biological father, A.J. Factor, all know that Sierra is seriously ill. On the morning we met them, Sierra was treated at two hospitals before she was stabilized.

But the family is convinced of their next step - taking Sierra on an arduous trip to southern China, where they believe the little girl will be injected six times with stem cells during a 34-day stay. It's the kind of treatment not yet approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.

Sierra's treatment will cost $26,500, which does not include the cost of travel and living for the extended family. Those costs would mean an additional $25,000, according to Akery.

"We are really walking into this blindfolded," Akery said. "It's scary, but everybody says it's so nice over there."

The family says it got most of its information from a Web site called China Stem Cell News, at, which boasts of dozens of anecdotal testimonials from loved ones who say their children or family members showed improvement after the stem cell treatments. The site offers no scientific evidence and no means of making contact except through a Web form. CNN used the form, but as of yet has received no reply.

Keep reading this story

Filed under: Health
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