Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife (2023) s01e01 Episode Script

Episode 1

[monitor beeping]
[up-tempo music playing]
[Benita Alexander]
Surgeons are kind of like superheroes.
Because when things go badly wrong
and we're in deep trouble,
they're the ones we look to to save us.
Who else are you willing to trust
with your life?
A discovery right out of a movie script.
The transplant of an organ
that was, in part, grown in a lab.
- [newsman] Paolo Macchiarini
- [Benita] was kind of like a superhero.
[Bosse Lindquist]
He's on a mission to save the world.
[Benita] He was a miracle man.
[Paolo] We are trying
to create new organs.
We need to progress.
We need new ways to do a transplantation.
He actually believes that
he can alleviate the world from suffering.
[Kalle Grinnemo] It was said
that Paolo was the private surgeon
of the president of the United States,
the pope.
If you had a checklist of all the things
that you wanted in a man, he was it.
He checked every single box.
Know that I love you. Every day more.
He's intelligent, worldly.
He spoke all these different languages.
Love you. [chuckles]
[dramatic music rises then fades]
[Benita] But everything was a lie.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck you!
Everybody had been fooled by this man.
I was engaged to a monster.
Paolo was an absolute fraudster.
That's why we had to stop him.
Paolo Macchiarini treated people
as human lab rats.
She was coughing up
pieces of her own flesh.
[Paolo] The first liver transplant,
the first kidney transplant,
the first heart transplant
Did they go all well?
I think that this is the future.
The next patients,
everything will be better.
The question is,
was he torturing people to death?
It's the biggest con in medical history.
This guy might be an impostor,
but he might also be a genius.
Maybe he is on the way to save mankind.
Was this guy a superhero,
a supersurgeon, and the love of my life?
Or was he a dangerous con man
and a killer?
[dramatic music rises and fades]
- [sirens wailing in distance]
- [light instrumental music plays]
[Benita] In journalism,
there's a kind of sacred rule.
You don't get involved
with the subject of a story.
As a journalist,
you're supposed to be objective.
As you're telling a story,
you spend a lot of time with people,
and you spend a lot of time with them
in intimate situations,
and you certainly can't get involved
personally with somebody,
in a relationship,
because then your objectivity
could go flying out the window.
And there's a very good reason
that this sort of invisible line exists,
because it just helps maintain,
you know, the integrity of journalism.
But, unfortunately, you know,
it just didn't happen like that.
[light instrumental music continues]
I've wanted to be a journalist
since I was very young.
I was very shy growing up.
Painfully shy, actually.
I never wanted to be the one,
you know, in front of the camera.
I much preferred being behind the camera.
[keys clacking lightly]
I was at the height of my career.
I loved my job at NBC.
I was a single mother,
and I wasn't focused on having,
you know, a relationship.
NBC wanted to do a story
about regenerative medicine,
which I had never heard of.
I didn't know what this thing is.
And so we start researching the story.
It's this very exciting,
promising field in medicine
where the goal is to get to the place
where you can get replacement organs
or body parts just like this, you know.
The idea would be that you lose a limb,
or you have a diseased organ,
you just go get a new one at the lab.
And this one name keeps popping up.
It's Dr. Paolo Macchiarini.
He is said to be
the pioneer of this field.
From a landmark surgery
to a discovery
right out of a movie script.
Doctors are celebrating
a medical first tonight.
The transplant of an organ
that was, in part, grown in a lab.
[newswoman] Prof. Paolo Macchiarini at
Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm,
performed the surgery
with the help of an international team.
[Benita] His nickname
was The Supersurgeon.
He was adored and adulated.
He had almost this godlike status.
He had burst onto the world scene
and into headlines
by doing this very innovative procedure
using stem cells.
Surgeons in Sweden have carried out
the world's first transplant
of a synthetic organ.
A 36-year-old man suffering from cancer
received a new windpipe.
The first reaction was just to look at me
and say, "Well, you're crazy."
And he said, "Well?"
And I said, "Yes, I am."
"But this is your only chance
you have right now."
"But how much is the success rate?"
And I said, "I don't know."
"I never did it before."
[Benita] He was replacing the windpipe
with a plastic windpipe.
They would bathe this plastic windpipe
in the patient's own stem cells,
and then the idea was
that the stem cells would integrate
into this plastic tube,
and then this was being transplanted
into the patient.
In article after article,
he's described as kind of the renegade.
He's the one who's willing
to take risks that nobody else will take.
[Paolo] The more complex the surgery is,
the more higher
the chances of risk you take.
The first liver transplant,
the first kidney transplant,
the first heart transplant
Did they go all well?
We don't have the magic crystal to show
to look in the future.
I think that this is the future.
I just thought, "Okay, this guy's bold."
He wanted to do something
that nobody else was doing,
to save people who had no other hope.
I said, "Look," to my team.
"This is the person we need to call."
And so we had made
arrangements to meet him,
and I was with my colleague,
and I look up, and he walks in,
and he looks right at me.
And our eyes just met. Like, locked. And
He kind of gave me this little smile,
this little smirk, and I instantly,
I felt like a silly little schoolgirl.
And this all happened so fast.
Just in a split second.
And my first thought is,
"What the hell was that?" You know?
And my second thought is,
"Whatever the hell that was,
don't think about it."
You know? Just like
I'm I'm I'm forcing myself.
I'm in total work, producer mode.
I kind of, like, internally,
pulled myself together.
I think I was probably blushing,
quite frankly, you know, and
But something happened. Our eyes locked.
And there was this spark.
Immediately, I was a little thrown off.
This next story is a remarkable one
about how stem cell technology
is changing the game and saving lives.
Two-year-old Hannah Warren
was born without a windpipe.
There was one solution.
[Benita] At the time, Dr. Macchiarini
was working on the case of this toddler,
Hannah Warren,
that would be
the youngest person in the world
to ever get one of his
groundbreaking transplants.
She couldn't eat, she couldn't swallow,
she couldn't do anything
that a normal little toddler can do,
and had spent
her entire life in the hospital.
But she had all this personality.
She had this infectious thing about her.
Hannah was a magical child.
She was like pure sunshine.
Give Daddy a kiss.
Mwah! Mwah!
Her parents were desperate.
They had almost lost her so many times.
They had almost given up on her.
And then they found Dr. Paolo Macchiarini.
- Hello.
- [mother chuckling] Thank you.
I think one of the things
that's so endearing about Paolo
He's not your typical surgeon.
It really looked like he really cared.
Do you want this taken out?
[emotional notes playing]
This feels like somebody
that you can trust.
This feels like somebody
that has your best interests at heart.
We had decided that we wanted to do
the story about Hannah,
and, obviously, Dr. Paolo Macchiarini
is a huge part of this story.
The surgery
was going to be done in Illinois,
and Paolo was planning
on spending about a month there.
And so I had to make
several trips to Illinois to do filming.
When we were filming Paolo,
we started joking
that he had this George Clooney
kind of thing going on
because Paolo loves motorcycles.
[dramatic music builds slowly]
And he's on that motorcycle,
and he's owning that motorcycle.
There are a lot of women in the office
that were kind of swooning. Like, "Ooh."
And we wanted to get footage
of Paolo on a motorcycle,
so we rent him a motorcycle.
And they film him, you know,
riding around on the motorcycle.
Then I think we had a few hours
or something left on the rental.
- He said, "Does anyone want a ride?"
- [engine revs]
I was sort of hesitant.
I looked around and said,
"Anyone else want to go?"
And they said, "No, go."
He puts the helmet on me,
and he was very tenderly,
like, strapping the thing,
trying to fit it on my head.
I was struggling with it.
I remember at that moment
feeling a little bit of what I had felt
that first time our eyes connected
in the restaurant in Boston.
It felt intimate, in a way,
and it felt flirtatious.
And I got on the back
of that motorcycle with him.
He said, "You need to hold me tightly
because I'm gonna go fast."
When you're on the back of a motorcycle,
you've kinda got to snuggle into somebody.
It was a beautiful day.
The wind is whipping.
I am holding him.
And I remember joking
afterwards to my friends, like,
"I rode on a motorcycle
with George Clooney." [laughs]
We started going out to dinner
in between shoots, or at the end of a day,
and I was so blown away
by the fact that this man,
this supersurgeon,
is so caring and
so willing to just listen to me
and has taken so much interest.
[pleasant string music builds]
Not long after
he took me on the motorcycle,
we went out one night to dinner.
We were staying at this hotel in Illinois.
I think we were about two floors apart.
We were in the elevator,
and it was just the two of us.
- And his floor was first.
- [elevator dings]
And the doors open.
He says good night,
and then he backs out
of the elevator very slowly.
And he was holding
the door open with his hand,
and he's just kind of looking at me,
and I'm, like, looking at him,
and the doors start to close,
and he backs out,
and I'm saying good night,
and then, all of a sudden,
he pushes the elevator with both hands,
and he just leans in, and he kisses me.
It was such a surprise.
But also so damn romantic. [chuckles]
It was like out of a movie.
And I just thought, "Shit."
"I'm falling for this man."
My second thought was
"Shit. Uh-oh."
"I'm not supposed to fall for this man.
We're still filming him."
[Chris Lyles] Okay, give me a hug.
Give me a kiss.
[girl babbling indistinctly]
Mwah. I love you so much.
[girl] Did I brush my teeth?
[Chris laughing]
Yes. Your breath don't stink.
- [girl] Ah. Hey! Hey!
- Yeah, I'm gonna tickle you.
- I'm gonna tickle you.
- [girl laughing]
[Erica Greene] My brother was
very passionate about being a dad
and being the best person
he could for his daughter.
I was nine years older than Christopher,
so I enjoyed having him
as a little brother.
I really did. I loved him a lot.
He has a little girl. Erin.
And, uh [chuckling]
Erin looks just like him.
Chris had just turned 30.
We found out that he had a growth
on his windpipe.
And my heart dropped.
It was a shock to us.
And he was devastated
but, soon afterwards,
he became determined
that he was going to beat this.
He said he wanted to stay alive for Erin.
He wanted to walk her down the aisle.
[newsman 2] Chris Lyles went
to a specialist. Within 24 hours,
the 30-year-old learned he had cancer.
He soon learned the prognosis.
Uh, I'll be dead in six months. [laughs]
You know, and I have
a positive attitude about it.
Every person I talk to that has cancer,
or dealt with somebody that has cancer,
they said you gotta stay positive.
[Erica] He immediately started
radiation and chemotherapy.
But every last person came back
with the same answer of,
"I'm sorry.
There's nothing else he can do."
I felt like I had to do something.
[tense music playing]
And one night I was sleeping,
and I woke up from a dream.
Something just told me stem cells.
[light instrumental music plays]
My husband started just doing a search.
We found an article, and then some video
of Dr. Macchiarini
with Diane Sawyer from ABC News.
Now in medical news, a breakthrough.
A report that a doctor
has found a way to grow
a new windpipe for patients with cancer.
It was just shocking to even watch it.
[newsman 3] It's considered
the holy grail in its field.
A transplant of the trachea.
And last month,
Dr. Paolo Macchiarini did it twice.
[Erica] My husband
decided to send a message.
[dramatic notes play]
- [alert chimes]
- [Erica] Dr. Macchiarini responded.
"I think I can help your brother."
Those words were the first words
we ever heard from anyone
From anyone [exhales deeply]
[inhales, swallows]
that said that they could help.
There was my hope.
Maybe Chris was gonna live.
If you can take out the tumor completely,
then it is curative.
So you can expect
to have a very long, uh, survival.
He and Chris started having
their own personal talks,
discussions, through Skype.
Chris initially thought that they
just connected really immediately,
like it was this instant
He really came out
of that conversation with,
"Yeah, I definitely want to do this."
I'm gonna be gone
for a little while, right?
[Erin] Mm-hmm.
You know I'm gonna be gone for a while?
You know why? Do you remember why?
What did I tell you?
Remember that I was telling you
that Daddy was sick?
- Yes.
- Yes?
We knew that it was
experimental surgery, for sure.
We knew that because
the US government wasn't even allowing
that to be done in our country.
If you have a patient that is dying, uh,
and you think that it might help him,
then, uh, what is ethical?
To leave him alone? Or to try to help him?
[Erica] What was most important
is that we knew
that Dr. Macchiarini was on staff
at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden,
which is known to be one of
the best hospitals in the world,
and that's where the medical
Nobel Prize is given out.
So we just thought,
"We can't get any better."
"He's, like, the best of the best."
[jet engine roaring]
- Hi, everybody.
- We're actually sitting on the plane now.
And I just wanted to say hi
to everybody, you know.
Tomorrow morning, we will be in Sweden.
[ship horn blows]
[Kalle Grinnemo]
Paolo was more like a god,
uh, a messiah, for organ regeneration.
I was part of Paolo Macchiarini's team
at the Karolinska
and a surgeon.
There is no other situation
that I can think of
where you actually are asleep
and you cannot do anything,
and you put the life
in the hands of a surgeon.
[tense music builds]
The first time I actually met Paolo,
he had some sort of aura of mystique,
one can say.
[laughs] You don't really understand
exactly who is this guy.
I was in a meeting.
We were sitting around a room,
he was standing in a corner,
but deserved
all the attention of the room.
Um That's quite a feature,
actually, to pull off.
[Kalle] When Paolo arrived,
he was a star. He was a superstar.
His vision was to regenerate
new windpipes from plastic material
covered with the patient's own stem cells.
And if this works at the Karolinska,
they want to make a clinic around Paolo.
The idea was to have a center
where people from the entire world
would come here
for these organ transplantations,
and the Karolinska would make
a lot, a lot of money.
He was able to make us all feel
that we were part of this team
that will make the future happen now.
You need to progress. Otherwise, um,
there will be no new ways
to, um do a transplantation.
[Kalle] For me, he was a person,
really, to look up to.
Paolo once said to me,
"There is no person above me
except God."
And then I asked him,
"So, the pope is not as high as you are?"
"No, he's not."
[Dorna] Paolo said he needed
to replace Chris's windpipe
using his own stem cells.
And that was just amazing.
Any surgery is risky,
but this was super risky.
Once you take out a part of the airway,
you need to know that
you are able to reconstruct the airway.
If you are unable,
the patient dies in the operating room.
[Dorna] Chris joked about it
to Paolo the night before his surgery.
He said,
"Tell me, Doc. I'm a guinea pig, right?"
And Paolo didn't want to hear that.
He didn't want Chris to feel that way.
And I believed that.
He's world-renowned, he's the best.
[Kalle] I was assisting Paolo
on this operation.
I was holding the sutures.
I was exposing the tissues
for Paolo Macchiarini.
Exposing vessels,
exposing airway, and so forth.
Helping him implant this plastic tube.
[dramatic music rises and fades out]
[Dorna] After 15 hours of surgery,
Paolo finally appeared at the door.
And he had a smile on his face.
And he said, "It was successful."
[gentle music playing]
I had prayed for a miracle.
And Paolo was that miracle for us.
I got scars running now
up and down my chest.
But, uh as you can see, I'm here.
I'm still still kicking and breathing.
I mean,
it's kind of difficult though, but
Two thumbs up.
[up-tempo classical music plays]
[Benita] One of the things that made Paolo
intriguing is he's this world traveler
who works all around the world.
He's Italian, he's dashing,
he's charming, he's gorgeous.
He speaks five or six languages.
He works at the place that awards
the Nobel Prize in medicine.
He has a beautiful house in Barcelona,
and he's always running from Barcelona
to all these other parts of the world.
And he lives this very exciting life.
I'm not a big fan
of long-distance relationships.
I think they're
really difficult to sustain.
But with Paolo, somehow it wasn't.
At the beginning, we were careful
because of the professional thing,
and I was trying to figure out
what to do about it.
But Paolo just wanted to go,
you know, "To hell with everything."
He was in constant contact.
I mean, he was texting me all day long.
[alerts whooshing]
Gushing, romantic messages.
I, um, just wanted to
um, send you a few loving,
good morning words.
And a lot of kisses to my princess.
Passionate, tender, and loving kisses.
If he was gone for a long time,
he he would just sort of
go out of his way
to make me feel loved and special.
[alerts whooshing]
There was a constant, consistent level
of excitement to our whole romance.
It was never dull.
The very first trip we ever went on,
Paolo said, "I want to surprise you."
[jet engines whooshing]
- [Paolo] And my love
- I don't know where we're going.
[Paolo] My love still doesn't know
where we are going.
He takes me to one of
the most romantic cities in the world.
Venice, Italy.
I've never been to Venice.
The whole trip was just magic.
Romance on overdrive.
And it was the beginning
of him sweeping me off my feet.
And I mean really sweeping me off my feet.
On that first trip we went on to Venice,
he introduced me as his wife.
I remember nudging him under the table.
I'm like, "What are you doing?"
And he just thought it was so funny.
There was something
definitely that I noticed early on.
He liked to be the center of attention,
and he just likes sort of
playing with people a little bit.
And if that meant
bending the truth a little bit, it
he got some sort of kick out of that.
He liked to exaggerate.
It went hand in hand
with all these grand gestures.
Being with Paolo was
literally like being in a fairy tale.
Everything was so extravagant
and over the top,
and every single trip,
there was a surprise.
[Paolo] Look for the lights.
[Benita] Oh my God! Wow!
Love you. [chuckles]
Money was an absolute nonissue.
He not only paid for everything,
but everything was the best hotel rooms,
the most expensive restaurants,
the most expensive wine, shopping sprees.
[jet engine whirring]
He flew me all over the world.
Türkiye, Russia, the Bahamas,
Puerto Rico, Greece.
[Paolo] Hear the waves of the sea.
- I love you, my love.
- Love you.
There were so many magical trips.
One of the things about Paolo, and it's
something my friends still talk about, is,
not only does the man speak five or six
languages, he had five or six phones.
It was kind of ridiculous
because sometimes
he'd lay them out in front of him.
He'd say, "This is the Barcelona phone,
this is the US phone,
this is the Russia phone,
this is the Swedish phone."
I mean, talk about James Bond.
Who walks around with four or five phones,
and who can even keep track
of four or five phones?
But he would pick up one
and he's speaking in one language.
He'd pick up another one
and he's speaking in another language.
He said he needed a different phone
for every place he worked.
That it was just easier.
Later, I would have other theories
about his many phones,
but at the beginning,
it added to his appeal.
[dramatic music rises and fades]
[Dorna] After the surgery,
we didn't see Paolo that much.
He was flying this place,
he was flying that place.
He had, um, one of his assistants
look after Chris.
[nurse] Is it okay, Chris?
- Here. So, you try to hold it.
- Hmm.
[Kalle] Very soon after surgery,
Chris Lyles gained
an infection in the airway,
so he started to cough enormously hard.
This, you know, really, really deep cough.
He got mucus clots in the airways.
What also happened was,
he got an infection in the wound.
So he had a quite dramatic
early postoperative period.
We took care of it very urgently.
We directly, actually,
could take him to the operating room
and remove the mucus clots, and so forth.
But it was a little bit unusual
that you get the infection
so early on after surgery.
[Erica] He had to stay longer
than what we initially thought
he would be in Sweden.
Eventually, my brother
was demanding to come back home
because he needed to see his daughter.
[pleasant music plays]
[nurses chatting indistinctly]
Oh, sorry.
You just take a small walk,
then turn left.
He was recovering, so he could,
uh, go back to the States.
I was really, really happy for Chris.
[indistinct overlapping chatter]
[Dorna chatting happily]
[laughter and chatter]
[Dorna] Oh, that's a moment in time.
- I'm just happy to be home.
- [Erica] I know that's right.
- I'm just so happy to be here.
- [Erica] Yes.
[Erica] Within a week or so,
he had to go back to the hospital.
On March 5th,
my phone rung in the middle of the night.
And when I answered the phone,
my mom
was, um was screaming.
[sniffles, sobs softly]
And she just yelled out,
"Chris is dead. Chris is dead." [sobs]
[melancholy music playing]
[sniffles, sighs]
[softly] He was gone.
[sobbing] He fought so hard.
And he was gone.
A sad farewell for a Maryland man
who helped change
cancer treatment worldwide.
[newswoman 2] Lyles remained
optimistic and hopeful till the very end.
[Kalle] At that time
when Chris Lyles was operated,
I truly believed in Paolo.
I truly believed in this, uh method.
It could have just been,
you know, bad luck
with postoperative infection
that caused this.
Even though he had passed,
we still believed that that
people were going to benefit from it.
I continued to support Dr. Macchiarini's
efforts in regenerative medicine.
[tense music builds slowly]
[Benita] When Hannah's
transplant was completed,
there were press conferences
and Paolo saying
that you can see the new cells
growing on Hannah's windpipe.
It basically seemed like a miracle.
Paolo had done the impossible.
[light applause]
All this is a journey of 25 years,
and, um, I cannot express
what it means to me as a scientist.
As a man.
But it didn't take very long before
it became clear that something was wrong.
Hannah wasn't doing well,
and there was concern.
[phone chimes, vibrating]
[Benita] And then I get this text saying
she passed away.
And I burst into tears.
Obviously, the immediate question is,
okay, what happened?
Did something go wrong?
Does this mean the windpipe failed?
That it didn't work?
But Paolo was absolutely insistent
that her death had nothing to do
with the windpipe itself failing,
and that her death was
caused by other complications.
Hannah's family very bravely
put this beautiful tribute on Facebook
calling Hannah a pioneer.
That her death was not in vain
because Paolo and his team
would learn from her death and her case.
And that it would help
somebody else down the road.
Well, now we had a huge dilemma.
We were struggling
with what to do with the story.
We didn't have the beautiful
happy ending that we'd hoped to have,
and we almost killed the whole story.
Maybe there was a way to salvage the story
by piggybacking on the message that
Hannah's parents were putting out there,
that her death was not in vain.
And so, at that point, we pivoted.
[dramatic music builds]
We decided if we talked more
about some of Paolo's other patients
and how he was learning
from each one of these cases,
that that way we could still do a story
about the hope
of this very promising field.
Now Paolo was more the focus of the story.
[dramatic notes rise and fade out]
[somber music playing]
We reached out
to Christopher Lyles' family.
I knew they were big supporters of Paolo,
in spite of Chris having died,
and so we wanted
to interview them with Paolo.
I just want to thank you because
No, Paolo, 'cause
- I thank you.
- You did, you know
You gave us hope when no one else did.
And, um
That's the greatest gift
we ever got through this whole thing.
[Dorna] That's right.
He came in and he met Chris's daughter
and he was so sweet with her.
I miss him.
I just want to be up there,
like, with him.
Wherever he goes.
- [Paolo] He's with you.
- Oh
Come here.
Give me a hug.
- I'm sorry. I'm really sorry.
- [Erin] I know.
But he's a good man. He was a good man.
Christopher did not die for nothing.
And Hannah too.
So we need to move forward.
We don't have the right to stop.
[tense music playing]
[Kalle] Paolo Macchiarini thinks
totally different from most surgeons.
He thinks that each time
he is doing anything,
he's doing something spectacular.
But now there were some questions.
Is this a successful method, actually?
And I was starting to doubt
what to think and what to believe.
The more people started to question,
actually, Paolo Macchiarini,
the more annoyed he got.
I think he looks at himself that he is
the closest person to God.
[light instrumental music plays]
[Benita] Fast-forward, Christmas 2013,
Paolo came to stay in New York with me.
It was very casual.
He cooked a big, elaborate meal.
We had Christmas music playing,
and we were sitting on the couch,
exchanging gifts,
and he handed me this little box.
[Paolo] Open it.
[Benita] Then I open the box,
and it's this beautiful diamond ring.
Oh my God.
I just I kind of froze.
[Paolo] Do you love it?
And then I said to him,
"Is this what I think it is?"
And he just smiled. And he nodded.
Just, wow, you know?
I was completely floored.
It was such a simple proposal.
It was really beautiful.
We also knew that we weren't
going to share this with many people yet.
Because we were
still waiting for the story to air.
I kept asking, "What are we
gonna do for New Year's Eve?"
And he was a bit evasive.
He kept saying, "I might have a surgery."
Um And he didn't give me
much information, but he
I think a day or two before, he just said,
"I'm really sorry, but I have to go."
We had just gotten engaged,
and I was basking in the glow.
I didn't want him to leave.
I said, "Really? On New Year's?"
And he was insistent.
"It's an important surgery. I have to go."
So, I was peppering him
with questions about, "Really?"
"Who do you have to operate on
on New Year's Eve?" And
He kind of hemmed and hawed,
and he was a bit reluctant,
and then he said, you know,
"I have to tell you something,
and you're not really
supposed to know this,
but I have some
very high-profile patients."
I said, "What do you mean?"
And he said,
"Well, um, I have some celebrity clients,
and some people
who are world leaders and dignitaries."
He just said, "These people don't want
their private matters made public."
And he told me that he was part of
a kind of secret network of doctors
that takes care of these people.
And he finally told me
that he was going to see
Bill and Hillary Clinton.
I I Uh, I remember I was stunned.
He said that he and Bill were friends,
and that they had
a kind of special camaraderie,
and that Bill had specifically asked
that he come and check Hillary out.
After that, every few months or so,
there'd be an emergency surgery.
People like the Emperor of Japan.
There were important people
in Russia that he attended to.
Because it was so secretive,
even in our private texts,
he used initials for everybody.
So, Bill Clinton was BC.
He's in Japan, and one day
pops up a message about BO.
At first I didn't even make
the connection.
I'm thinking, "Who? BO? Who's that?"
And he was teasing me back and forth.
"I don't know who that is."
Are you talking about Barack Obama?
- [cheers and applause]
- Thank you very much.
He was. I thought, "Wow, okay." You know?
Now you're taking care
of the president too?
It seemed to make sense
that Paolo ran in these circles
that most people don't understand,
you know, that he's taking care
of world leaders and celebrities
because of his stature.
He's at that level. He's the supersurgeon.
It kind of made me proud of him
and proud to be next to him.
[dramatic music builds]
[Bosse] My name is Bosse Lindquist,
and I'm an investigative journalist
at Swedish public service television.
When I first came to hear about
Paolo Macchiarini, my boss said,
"Oh, you should take a look
at this, um this piece of paper."
"It's a disgruntled professor
at the Karolinska
who, um, has come with this to us."
It's a letter of accusation,
where they basically accuse a colleague,
which was Paolo,
for more or less
having killed his patients
and, um, committed fraud in science.
And I said,
"Well, yes, I could take a look at it,
but it's completely impossible
that this is true."
"These things simply do not happen
at the Karolinska."
I was pretty sure it was slander.
So the first thing I did
was to see what I could find.
And there was lots.
I found several documentaries on the net
that had already been done about his work.
Fantastic programs
that showed what a good guy he was
and how he'd saved
the lives of his patients.
Benita's film for NBC stood out.
As the program progresses,
Macchiarini's patients die.
But what the program-makers say,
and what Macchiarini says is,
"Well, I mean,
this is really difficult. It's hard."
"It's a method that is being developed,
but the hope is there,
and we shouldn't be small-minded
when we look at Macchiarini's work."
I picked up the phone and called
the Karolinska switchboard,
and they put me through
to Paolo's answering machine.
And in two days' time,
I had a call from him.
He said, "You're very lucky
because I'll be passing from
New York to Moscow Wednesday."
"If you can be at the institute
between 3:00 and 5:00,
um, I'm at your disposal."
"Bring a cameraman.
We are not wasting time."
When I came to Karolinska,
I was a bit surprised because Paolo's PhDs
and medical assistants were not
behaving the way they usually did.
They were more like private secretaries
somehow than normal PhDs.
And then he entered a bit like
not Bill Gates, more like Bono,
having this air of coming straight from
Paris, New York, uh Rome, or somewhere.
Paolo made clear very early on
that he had had difficulties,
and that there were adverse outcomes,
and that patients were doing
uh, were doing poorly.
But, according to him,
this was because these patients had
multiple diseases or were infirm,
so that was clouding his results.
If you test a new surgical method
on a person with, um,
life-threatening conditions,
obviously it will be harder to know
what the actual effect is of your method.
With a lab rat, you would select
a perfectly healthy lab rat
so that you wouldn't have anything
that would cloud your results.
So, what he really wanted
was comparatively healthy patients
to try out his plastic tracheas,
his plastic windpipes on.
[dramatic music builds slowly]
Paolo is the kind of person
that likes to have
a number of balls in the air
the whole time.
So, at the same time that he was doing
the first plastic implants in Sweden,
he was negotiating
in Russia to get permission
to do proper clinical trials there.
He was given permission
by the Russian authorities,
and he had the opportunity
to actually select
among quite healthy patients
as his subjects.
Young, healthy, and strong.
Those were the criteria.
And by the summer of 2012,
he was ready to do the first trials.
One of the things that touched me the most
when I was researching Paolo is
there's a documentary
about him in Russia, in Krasnodar,
with Julia, this Russian dancer mom.
You look beautiful.
Thank you.
We might need to take
a part of the muscle.
The first option is to do
an incision here and an incision here.
[Belina] She was
this absolutely beautiful,
young former dancer and mother in Russia.
I mean, she's gorgeous.
And she was in a tragic car accident,
and as a result of this,
her windpipe was damaged
and she had a hole in her throat.
And for Julia, who is this very vivacious,
beautiful young woman with her whole life
ahead of her, this was devastating.
And they actually,
in Russia, had a lottery,
equivalent to a lottery,
to basically win the opportunity
to have famous surgeon,
Dr. Paolo Macchiarini,
give you a new windpipe.
And she made a video.
Pleading, you know, with Paolo,
"Please let me be the one."
"Please help me."
[in Russian] My name is Julia Tuulik.
In 2008, I was in
a very serious road accident.
I had a tracheostomy inserted.
Now I have a tube
that constantly grinds on me.
It hurts a lot when I speak,
breathe, lie down, and sleep.
I have lost my health and my beauty.
[little boy chattering excitedly]
My little boy is the only thing
that makes me happy.
I'm so blessed to have him.
[speaking Russian on video]
But he has never heard his mother sing,
not even a lullaby.
As you can see,
I'm a normal, nice, young girl,
and I would like to live
like other normal people.
[Belina in English]
She didn't actually need this transplant.
She was not at death's door,
but she wanted to be back to normal.
Very understandable.
[Bosse] As I was scouring the net
for documentaries about Paolo Macchiarini,
one of the stories
was made by the German broadcaster,
which showed, in close detail,
his surgeries in Russia
where they followed his work
on Julia Tuulik.
[pensive music playing]
[air hissing]
[indistinct light chatter]
[Paolo] Another bit of suction.
[in Spanish] It's me.
We finished the operation.
Can you say something? Say something.
- [in Spanish] Thank you so much.
- [in English] Good.
- Congratulations to everybody.
- [man claps, exclaims]
[whispering in Spanish]
Will I be able to play with my son?
[Paolo] Yes, as much as you like. Okay?
Don't worry.
Don't worry, okay?
[Bosse in English]
The film is incredibly moving.
I mean, he is giving her back
a gift of a 100% normal life.
Julia had been fearful, but then she had,
at the same time, been sure
that Macchiarini was the guy
who would make her life perfect again.
[uplifting music playing]
This is Julia.
When I met Julia,
she was not able to play with her child.
It was a very emotional,
uh, moment for me,
and I immediately said,
"This is the right patient."
And I still do not believe
that a few days ago
she couldn't breathe and talk normally.
So, um, she's a little bit afraid of you,
so please be very sweet.
[in Russian, hoarsely]
I'm not afraid of anyone.
- [chuckles softly]
- [applause]
[Julia coughs]
I've got so many plans,
so much I want to do.
First, I need to get well,
and then I'd like to continue my studies.
[Bosse in English] It's very persuasive.
Paolo is the gift of God to mankind.
He's really helping this young lady.
So I thought, that's fantastic.
I mean, the program says
that it was a big success.
That might mean that Paolo's methods,
maybe they're not 100%, uh perfect,
but apparently they work in some places.
So this is really essential.
I should get hold of Julia
and ask her how she's doing.
And then a couple of days later,
our colleague, Johannes Wahlström,
managed, against all odds,
to locate her mother.
[Johannes] I managed
to track down Julia's mother
who is a lady living
in a suburb outside of St. Petersburg.
And I call her, and I ask
if it's possible to speak to her daughter.
And the mother responds that,
"Yeah, you can speak to my daughter."
"But in order to do that,
you need to die."
- "Because she is already dead."
- [dramatic notes play]
I am taken aback.
Because I've just seen her on the screen,
just a few hours earlier.
And I don't really know
what to make out of that.
[dramatic notes rise and fade out]
I basically ask her what happened,
and the mother says
that it was all, uh you know
It was all fake.
And her daughter went through
pure horror until her death.
And this was just, you know, a big scam.
Uh and torture, and murder.
She was coughing up
pieces of her own flesh.
That's the way that
she retells it on the telephone,
but it's a short conversation
that we have.
But I realize that, right there and then,
uh, that the story that I have seen
just a few hours earlier is
is a lie.
[dramatic note rises]
[dramatic instrumental music playing]
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