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January 26th, 2010
06:08 PM ET

It's just survival

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

A couple of days ago, a man was stoned to death about a block from where we are staying in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I have been down here nearly two weeks covering the earthquake devastation, having arrived quickly the morning after it occurred. I didn’t see the stoning myself, but several of my colleagues described a man who had been trying to steal money and was met with swift and deadly citizen justice. A lot was made of this particular tragedy, and if you caught only that headline, you might be left believing the incident was in some way emblematic of what was happening all over the place. Truth is, even though I braced myself to see rampant lawlessness and mob hostility, I wanted to blog about what I have actually seen.

As I drove through the streets of Port-au-Prince, just 16 hours after the earthquake, I was met with stunned stares and unfathomable grief, as parents tried to dig their babies out of the rubble and older kids did the same for their parents. It was heartbreaking. And though we raced out with our first aid bags to help those we could, it seemed like we would never be able to make a dent in the suffering. There were people who died in this earthquake and those who lived – but there were also a large number of people somehow caught in between. They were alive, but terribly injured and dying. That is where we focused our attention. Terrible crush injuries of arms and legs. Degloving injuries, where the skin of the arms or legs was ripped away. And, people so malnourished and dehydrated that they could barely walk.

I expected to see those stunned stares turn to desperation, and that desperation turn to brutality. It didn’t. In fact, I remember driving by a water station that had finally opened on January 18th, five days after the earthquake struck. It stayed in my mind for two reasons. First of all, five days is a long time to go with little to no water, especially in Haiti heat. Second of all, there was no pushing, shoving or aggressive behavior. There were no armed guards and there was a tight line, with people waiting patiently. Some were even singing songs, while blistering away in the heat. I almost cried. A piece of my faith in humanity, which had been trashed by too many terrible images, was slowly restored.

A couple of days later, I was seeing patients at one of the hospitals in downtown. It was actually more of a tent city situated outside the hospital, where care was sparse and misery was thick. Helping care for wounds, evaluate injuries and even perform surgery – every single patient said thank you, in Creole, French and English. Thank you. When recounting this to a neurosurgery colleague of mine, he reminded me that we could often go months working at a county hospital in the states without ever hearing those two words.

Over the last two weeks, I have not seen the violence Haiti has been known for in years past. During this time, when lawlessness had been put to the test, it seems the people of Port-au-Prince stood tall, dignified and with respect for one another. Yes, there has been “looting” from stores of supplies. But, is “looting” even the correct term for people taking basic necessities for themselves and their families? Instead, it is just survival, and faced with the same situation, I would’ve likely been right there with them, wanting to preserve the lives of my wife and children.

Consider this a blog that went beyond a headline, and presented a reporter’s on-the-ground view of this very important issue. I won’t pretend that this is more than a slice of life in the aftermath of a terrible natural disaster, but it is my slice, and I wanted to share it with you. Thank you – for reading it.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


January 26th, 2010
03:46 PM ET

Starting over in a quest to get fit. Again.

By Meredith D. Clark
CNN Fit Nation Challenge Participant

Two weeks after meeting my fellow Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge participants, I can safely say that my runner’s high (fitness high?) has worn off.

After I returned home from our first appearance on CNN, the reality of what it will take to get a healthier - and hopefully less hefty - me across the finish line in July really set in. I guess some small part of me expected the enthusiasm of working out with our head trainer, Laura Cozik, to miraculously melt my fat cells and firm me up a bit.

One step on the scale and two long looks in the mirror quickly helped me snap back to reality.

Since being selected in December, I’ve wondered what thing - an attitude? a feasible plan? - I’ll have to develop in order to complete this challenge. I submitted my video because a) I’m tired of losing and gaining the same 10 to 20 pounds, b) I want to break the cycle of obesity-related disease in my family and c) I want to help people like me see that we really can be the fit people that we want to be, despite busy schedules, complicated family histories and all. The finish line in New York will be the starting point of a lifestyle committed to my own fitness and well-being so that I can be better than I have been for the first 30 years of my life.

That takes learning how to live all over again. What brought me to this point - having regained 20 of 30 pounds I lost two years ago, embarrassed about my backslide (and my backside, ha ha) and determined not to let it happen again - are a jumble of behaviors and habits I’ve practiced in an ongoing battle to lose weight and keep it off.

This time, I’m out to get fit forever.

When diet programs place an asterisk next to a standout weight-loss winner’s shed poundage, the “results not typical” disclaimer is a reminder that there’s a reason big, permanent weight loss and improvement in wellness don’t come via quick fix. The evolution of going from couch potato or even moderately active to truly fit takes un-learning all of your bad habits, and retraining mind, body and spirit to embrace new ones.

When I realized this two weeks ago, I freaked. Bringing the kind of change I see in my mind’s eye will mean turning to exercise instead of chocolate, margaritas or my favorite meal when I seek comfort at the end of a long day. It will mean learning how to say ‘no’ to more activities in order to provide myself with ample time for rest, recovery and reflection. It means separating the haters from the celebrators as I work to be better than I have been before.

And in a generally un-American fashion, it will mean that all of these changes will have to occur s-l-o-w-l-y.

So instead of relying on the strategies that have worked with an expiration date, I’m using this time to re-learn the way I live. Whereas I’d normally start my workout regimen with a commitment to sweat for 45 minutes to an hour a day, seven days a week, my training for the tri begins with a 15-minute run two days this week, a 40-minute bike ride on two other days, a 30-minute session in the pool, and two days to do nothing.

Instead of cutting sugar cold-turkey (a practice that has helped me lose pounds and friends as I become increasingly irritable), my nutrition plan allows me to include just a little here and there. Eventually, I’ll wean myself off that white horse, but I don’t have to torture myself (or others) to do it.

Going slowly will probably be the hardest part of my triathlon training, but I have six months to find my groove, and a lifetime to sustain it. I hope you’ll join me.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


January 26th, 2010
03:05 PM ET

Doctors crowd Haitian hospital

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on assignment in Haiti. He checks in on doctors who have traveled to Haiti and are preparing to treat injured patients.


January 26th, 2010
03:05 PM ET

CNN crew overnight in Haiti field hospital

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on assignment in Haiti. He and his crew take care of earthquake victims overnight at a field hospital.


January 26th, 2010
03:04 PM ET

Overnight in Haiti field hospital

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on assignment in Haiti. He and his crew discuss how they were pulled into action, with CNN producer Danielle Dellorto turned "nurse" and his cameraman turned "medic" to care for quake victims overnight in Haiti.


January 26th, 2010
03:04 PM ET

Fears paralyze many Haiti survivors

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on assignment in Haiti. He reports that PTSD and fear of another quake are paralyzing many survivors in Haiti.


January 26th, 2010
03:03 PM ET

Haitians' needs run deep

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on assignment in Haiti. He reports how the needs of Haitians will be extensive, from shelter to prosthetics.


January 26th, 2010
03:03 PM ET

Haitians in fear's grip

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on assignment in Haiti. He looks at the psychological fallout from Haiti's earthquake.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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