TB Patient's Wife Defends Decision to Travel


Andrew Speaker and Sarah Cooksey were engaged in December.

Just weeks later, they learned Speaker had a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.

"It was a shock," Cooksey said of hearing the diagnosis. "He went in because he had fallen and was worried that he had bruised a rib. So he went in for a chest X-ray and they discovered this."

Cooksey told Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America" she had no second thoughts about going forward with the wedding.

"Oh, no, I love my husband very much," she said. "And I wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't trade whatever time I have with him … no, no second thoughts, no."

No one knows how Speaker contracted the difficult strain of TB. Speaker thinks he may have contracted it while doing charity work among the sick in Vietnam, but it's still a mystery.

Sarah Cooksey, a law student whose father, Bob, is a prominent researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has tested negative for tuberculosis. Cooksey has a young daughter who has also tested negative.

The newlyweds are not allowed to kiss, and Cooksey now wears a mask around her husband, though she points out she was not doing that up until a few days ago.

Cooksey and Speaker's May wedding on the Greek island of Santorini was their last real freedom before becoming health fugitives.

"It was this very long walkway to get to him, and it was in San Turino which has these beautiful white domes everywhere and I came through the little gate," Cooksey said of the wedding day. "I could see him the whole time and the vows were beautiful, and it was very nice, very nice."

The couple shared the traditional wedding kiss and vows to stay together "in sickness and in health."

What About Dad?

But questions are dogging the couple about their decision to fly international after Speaker's diagnosis, especially because of Bob Cooksey's connection to the CDC.

Speaker insisted in an interview with Diane Sawyer that CDC officials told him it was safe for him to travel.

On May 18, after flying from Paris to Greece for his wedding and then to Italy for his honeymoon, Speaker received a call from the CDC advising him not to travel.

But Speaker told Sawyer that after the CDC called him in Rome and told him to cancel his commercial fight plans, the organization didn't offer him any help. Speaker claims it would have cost $100,000 to fly back on a noncommercial airline. In effect, he said, the CDC was walking away from him.

Cooksey said her father did indeed call the CDC to try to intervene.

"Everybody was calling all day," she said. "There was about a 24-hour period between when we were told this and when we left."

The family asked the CDC to try to arrange alternative transportation for Speaker back to the United States, such as a military vessel or maritime ship.

"This wasn't a rash decision. They had all day, and we called all day and [no] was their [CDC's] final decision," Cooksey said.

She insists that had the CDC offered to work on alternative transportation for Speaker, they would have stayed in Rome.

Cooksey said she is hurt by the public venom against her father.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...