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tv   Vital Signs with Dr. Sanjay Gupta  CNN  August 27, 2016 11:30am-12:01pm PDT

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>> it comes from the greek word meaning "addition" and today prosthetics are like extensions of the human body than ever before. this is "vital signs." i'm dr. sanjay gupta. the first were used in egypt 3,000 years ago. s they wooden toes were found in a mummy's tomb thought to be the world's oldest prosthetics but advancements in functional limbs were still a long way off. amputations from disease or injury were often fatal. in the united states, it was the civil war in the 1860s that first put prosthetics at the forefront. today, there are nearly 2 million people living with limb loss in america. the most common reasons for
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amputation, are trauma, infection, diabetes, heart disease, cancer. thankfully technology has come a long way and losing a limb no longer means an end to a patient's life. or even certain aspects of their way of life. and for some athletes, prosthetic advancements means never losing a step. meet athlete andy lewis, a british hopeful for the rio paralympics. 2016 is andy's year. this is the first time his event is included in the paralympics. at the european triathlon championship in lisbon, he's in peak form. but for potential paralympians, physical fitness is just part of the equation. amputees like andy need prosthetics that are also at the top of their game. >> it has to be comfortable for that moment you're wearing it. it has to be mechanically sane. you have to trust it.
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i have a new knee they've given me now, which is a cylinder hydraulic system, the oiler is thinner which means it moves a lot quicker. who knows in the next race or hopefully that sport in rio, it will be even quicker. >> the triathlon is a three disciplined event, swimming, cycling, running. it's challenging enough changing kits without having to think about changing limbs. the transition zone is where crucial seconds are gained and lost. the engineering of andy's prose thesics is versatile and gives him an edge. >> i have the fastest transitions for an amputee so we're doing something right. >> reporter: andy is supported by clinicians back home in the uk. >> the simple definition we provide prosthetic support, provide them with a prosthesis but the reality is it goes
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deeper than that. it's an it mate relationship we're working with these people and need to understand them as people, understand their daily life, their changing, demands. and also ride the ups and downs with them which everybody goes through. >> reporter: at pace rehab they specialize in making bespoke sockets, the piece that fits over the residual limb and describe themselves as craftsmen. >> the way which we capture the shape typically here is to wrap somebody in a plaster bandage, get plaster under our fingernails. there are high-tech ways of doing this but we find we have the best results by wrapping plaster and take an empty shell upstairs, fill that with liquid plaster of paris where we have a positive mold of somebody's leg. we sculpt, adjust, reduce, we change the shape according to the anatomy, and then over the top of that mold a prosthesis is made. >> this is the prosthetic
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socket. made of carbon fiber. it's very thin. they just get it spot on. when i first had it made it was giving me a little grief, rubbing in areas and things like that, but going to pace as you can see here, they actually cut pieces out where i'm getting issues. >> there's a crossover between science and art in this job. we understand the science, the anatomy and the mechanics, the materials, the property, but then upstairs when we sculpt him with plaster of paris it's a lot more artistic. >> reporter: james has been an amputee for 21 years and competed at the paralympics in atlanta in 1996 so he understands andy's needs. >> my journey, of course, started on the other side of the clinical table if you like. i was a patient. and i remember 20 or so years ago having to fight to get carbon fiber designs of feet,
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silicon gel barriers between my skin and the socket because all these make a big difference. what's moved on is a better understanding of what athletes need so we don't make generic sockets. we are making sockets specifically for a sport or an event. >> reporter: back in lisbon andy had a tough race, went hard on the swim, placed third after the cycle, and made up time on the run. crossing the finish line in first place with delight and rio in his sights. >> i just can't believe i'm the european champion. just can't believe it. >> how did you go in the transition zone? how were the changeovers? >> really slick. i perfect that. >> reporter: the hours of preparation by andy and his team pay off in moments like this. next up we meet another inspiring athlete who defied the odds on the way to paralympic gold. ♪
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he is. but i'd like to keep being terrible at golf for as long as i can. new patented ensure enlive has hmb plus 20 grams of protein to help rebuild muscle. for the strength and energy to do what you love. new ensure enlive. always be you. early morning, baltimore, maryland. on the campus of loyal ya university, brad snyder arrives for swim practice. his guide dog leads the way. brad changes into his swim gear and leaves gizzy in the back corner of the pool deck. he follows the drain with his feet using it to guide him back to the blocks where his coach is waiting. the water is the one place brad doesn't need much help. and here, though he's completely blind, he feels free.
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brad snyder grew up in florida, the oldest of four kids. as a young boy he idolized his grandfather, a world war ii veteran. >> from the age of three or four, i remember hanging out with my grand pa, down in florida. that's kind of like what drove me at the beginning was i want to live a life that when i get to be 65, i carry the same amount of respect or have the same legacy my grandpa had. not word for word legacy but that intangible aura sort of thing. >> reporter: brad saw the military as a way to earn that respect and was accepted to the united states naval academy where he learned about the explosive ordinance disposal unit, responsible for clearing potential explosive threats. >> your grandpa was injured in the war. so you saw that. i mean, you knew about the risks. did you worry about yourself getting injured?
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>> not very much, i think. i think that's why we send the young to war, is because we're kind of young, naive, think we're invincible. i saw the scars on my grandpa's arm and on his forehead and heard those stories and to me it's -- i guess as a kid that meant that was a prerequisite for being a hero, i guess. to do something admirable you have to take some level of risk. >> reporter: brad was deployed overseas twice, first to iraq, and then to afghanistan. it was there on september 7th, 2011, that the trajectory of his life would change forever. >> two of our afghan partner force two afghan special forces commandos had stepped away from the path and sure enough there was a 40 pound ied in that area and immediately taking off the legs of the first guy who stepped on it, flinging him forward about ten feet, and then it took off the legs of the guy standing behind him as well. >> reporter: brad stepped on an ied, a hidden improvised
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explosive device. it detonated to the front and right of him. instead of directly under him. saving his limbs and likely his life. >> so i remember getting knocked back and i remember waking up kind of looking down and i actually could still see out of my left eye at the time. i didn't see blood or damage or anything. and the fact that i looked fine, i thought that must mean i had died. i didn't -- time seemed to go by slowly and i laid there for what seemed like a long time and thought about i had just lost my dad and will i get to see my grandpa or dad again and i got excited about that. all of a sudden the tinnitus kicked in and the ringing in my right ear and i remember that sound bringing me back to reality, like wait, i'm not dead. all of a sudden i became acutely aware of the damage to my face. severe hasser ser ragss across -- lacerations across my face. okay. i sustained a blast, i'm still
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alive. >> reporter: brad was air lifted out of afghanistan and woke up 60 hours later at walter reed hospital in washington, d.c., surrounded by his family. brad had multiple operations on his eyes, but the blast caused permanent damage. and blindness. to reduce the risk of infection, doctors decided to remove his eyes and replace them with prosthetics. brad was just 27 years old. >> sitting in the hospital with that, now it's no longer a phantom of uncertainty, right. now i know what it is. it's blindness. everything else is fine. have ten fingers, ten toes, heart is fine, no traumatic brain energy or pts to speak of. my thing is blindness. so i've got it in front of me. i can do this. >> i think he's excited. >> reporter: brad began to adjust to a life without vision. just a few weeks after he was released from the hospital he attended a barbecue in his
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honor. >> my old swim coach came over and being the person he was, he wasn't one to exist on the past too long. great, you're back, when are you coming back to the pool. was basically the way he encounters the pool. >> 35. >> brad had actually been a competitive swimmer all his life. at the naval academy he had been captain of the swim team. the water was familiar territory for him. but how different would it be without his vision. >> what i know then, i found this really cool sense of this freedom, this liberation from the burden of this new reality, right. >> was there a point you realized, look, i'm really pretty good at this and maybe this is something where i can go to the paralympics? >> people were talking about you know the world record is in reach and this and that and the other thing. i said guys, no, no, no. you don't understand. this is not -- you can't just happen into this. it takes years and years and
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years of dedication and hard work and mastering these different techniques i'm only just now learning, right. it would be impossible for this to happen. >> this man here, bradley snyder, dominated the morning heats. >> reporter: against the odds, brad did qualify for the london paralympic games in the summer of 2012. >> lane number six. >> reporter: he was scheduled to swim the finals of the 400 meter freestyle september 7th, 2012, just a year after his injury. brad touched the wall far ahead of his competition. he had done it. won gold. exactly one year to the day after losing his eyesight in afghanistan. >> had the race of his life. >> i don't even believe it sometimes. you know, it seems very surreal and even the memories are very -- they seem like something that was put into a movie or something like that. >> reporter: brad left london with two gold medals and a
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silver. since that time, his life has been a whirlwind. he's focusing full-time on training for this year's games in rio. and the athletic brand under armor based in baltimore where brad now lives signed him to a sponsorship deal last year. watching brad do this, you would never know he's blind. typically, blind swimmers are tapped with a pole by their coaches indicating it's time to make the turn at the wall. in practice, brad doesn't use a tapper. under gizzy's watchful eye he navigates using the lane ropes and counting his strokes. it's not a perfect method. he's crashed into the wall a few times. but the way brad approaches it, swimming is a lot like life. it's what you do after you crash into the wall that matters. and for a little boy in england, nothing is going to stop him
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every day roughly 500 americans lose a limb. the process of fitting for a prosthetic is painful and adjustments are always being made. for children born without a limb or lose them through amputation their growing bodies pose a bigger challenge. consider that a growing child may need a new prosthetic as often as every year. but that doesn't stop the little boy in england without arms or legs, from pursuing his dream of becoming a football star. marshal jansen is a happy go lucky 8-year-old little boy, living by the sea in cornwall in the southwest of england.
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he likes nothing more than playing football with his friends on a sunny day. a quadruple amputee. marshal's mother stephanie watched her baby lose all four of his limbs to a devastating illness when he was just a year old. he want to warn you you may find the next images upsetting. >> it was three days after his first birthday, marshal got meningitis b. sep ta seem ya which he was started off with just a temperature and within four hours, taking him to hospital. he was on life support machine, very, very poorly, and they said he wasn't going to make it. so after being on -- in intensive care over a month he started to make some signs of recovery, but it was decided that he would have to have all four limbs amputated.
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>> reporter: marshal not only survived, he became the energetic boy you see today. but new challenges were still to come. prosthetic limbs come in all shapes and sizes. the ones provided free of charge are not always the best for someone like marshal. he's a sporty kid who enjoys playing football, rugby, cricket. >> what do you want to be when you grow up? >> goalie. >> we have to provide for our own limbs because they won't provide for specialist limbs for him to do the sports. he had very basic ones at the beginning which he was learning to balance and stand on which was good to get his posture, but he couldn't really do anything. they made him really sore. when we started to fund for these blades which he put on and he just loved wearing them which was brilliant he was able to keep up with his friends. >> reporter: keeping up with his peers comes at a huge cost to the jansen family. these blades as they're called,
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cost over $17,000. and sometimes require additional operations. >> and, obviously, he grows out of them so he needs them replaced normally every year or more depending on his growth. but he will have to have operations for the rest of his childhood, but hopefully if we can keep him in his legs and up with his peers that's what we want to be able to achieve. >> reporter: each set of new limbs means learning to walk again, regaining balance, posture and confidence. it was marshal's confidence which was suffering the most when he received his newest legs six weeks ago. they bend at the knee and quite different to the blades he had grown to love. >> he said i'm not wearing them. everyone will laugh at me if i fall over. >> reporter: after marshal's story spread on-line the boy who dreams of playing in goal for tottenham hotspur received the biggest invitation of his life and message of support from his
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heros. >> here he comes through the tunnel, and his dad. your first -- yes, sign him up. everybody agrees. this is what it's all about. >> basically these legs were the same as these legs. these ones bend and we have a special bar in here. what happens? >> taking off the bottom. >> letting the air out. we press it. >> probably a good idea. so you can hear the suction. >> ow. >> pop. that one is out. >> then we have the liners. we have to make sure that's all flat. >> like a flying saucer. >> like a flying saucer. >> marshal got his first set of artificial limbs when he was 3 years old. now he's on his fifth pair and
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these ones are going to take some getting used to. >> these legs are different because they have the knee joint which is ob, obviously, these are the blades and all done from the hip where these ones are done totally different posture so they're much better for his back. he can't stand still in the blades but he can stand still in these ones. >> reporter: this is the first time marshal has worn his new legs on the uneven grass surface. okay. . well done. >> now the hills. >> you are doing really good. hills. hills. >> crash landed. >> i've done this. >> reporter: life threatening trauma injuries like amputation don't stop once the wounds are healed. for stephanie jansen and her family a care free childhood is all they wish for marshal and the sporting ambitions and that
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means supporting him each step of the way. the resiliency of children like marshal is astounding. really everyone we met was an inspiration. thanks to the advances in prosthetic technology combined with the strength of the human spirit, a disability like limb loss or blindness doesn't have to be the end of a distinguished sporting career. in fact, for these athletes, it was just the beginning. for "vital signs" i'm dr. sanjay gupta. "vital signs with dr. sanjay gupta" is brought to you by --
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