Defending Their Son: The Speakers Speak

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Letter Arrives Too Late

After that conversation with officials, Andrew Speaker left for Greece. Local health officials say they should have delivered a letter to him before he departed for the trip and explained to him that he should not travel.

"My name's in the phone book. [The Cookseys'] name's in the phone book," Ted Speaker said. "Why don't they just come and present me with a letter? No one did. No one bothered."

The parents agree Andrew Speaker would have canceled his travel plans if he believed he was putting others at risk.

A week later the CDC called Andrew Speaker and told him that his strain of TB was the most drug resistant. Officials told him to isolate himself in Rome.

"You will need to turn yourself in to Italian authorities and face quarantine until this is cured," Cheryl Speaker said the CDC told her son.

But the family believed Andrew would get better treatment in the United States.

"We don't know that there's a cure. They are doing experimental stuff in Denver," Cheryl Speaker explained as his reasoning to come back into the country.

'We Had Nothing'

The parents say the CDC simply walked away, offering no assistance to help Andrew Speaker return home. The CDC now says it was going to help.

"I can assure you, if we had had one ounce, one ounce, one smidgen that there was anything, any plans to bring them home, that's all we needed," Betsy Cooksey said. "That's all we needed. We had nothing."

The family said it tried reaching high government officials and Congress members. Instead, David Kim, an officer of the CDC, told the family the only recourse was $100,000 of its own money to rustle up a plane quickly.

The Speakers said they told Kim they didn't have that type of money.

What Did Robert Cooksey Think?

"It's the height of irony that I happen to work in TB research," Robert Cooksey said.

He said that he didn't think Andrew Speaker's contraction of TB had anything to do with his research.

"That was one of the first facts that we established, that I've never had tuberculosis, and I never gave him or anyone else tuberculosis," Robert Cooksey said.

He said that even though he was unsure of what he would have done if he were in Andrew Speaker's position, he probably would have done the same thing.

"[It was] established early on that if he thought he was putting a single person at risk, not the least of which is his new wife, then believe me, he wouldn't have been on a plane," he said.

Cheryl Speaker said she believed this entire incident wasn't a coincidence, but a trial in faith.

"I wrote Andrew a note a few days ago. And I said to him, 'I don't believe that God made this happen, but I believe there's a higher purpose here.  I'm not sure what it is, but I know that when God has a special mission -- mission, he chooses the very best he can find.  And he has chosen the very best you can find, and that's Andrew Speaker,'" Cheryl Speaker said.

The Family Tested Negative

Andrew Speaker's parents, wife and in-laws have all been tested for tuberculosis.

"Everyone we know that has been tested is all negative," Ted Speaker said. "We worked together practicing law every day, at night, weekends -- negative."

Robert Cooksey said the family would still be followed for a period of time.

"They'll retest us," he said. "And I think at some point, they will determine that we're basically in the clear."

So far Andrew Speaker has no symptoms. He hasn't coughed.

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