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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Surviving a Nightmare; Seatbelts for Survival?; Fight Against ISIS; Measles Outbreak; Investigation Into Train-SUV Collision Continues; Trapped Inside His Own Body; DOD Study: Putin Has Asperger's
Aired February 5, 2015 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight.
New developments and new details in the TransAsia air disaster. We are learning new details how one man's hunch, another man's bravery, plenty of teamwork, and a whole lot of luck added up to 15 people rescued aboard that doomed flight.
Also tonight, another measles outbreak, this one at a daycare center just outside Chicago. It's got public health experts very concerned. We'll take you there.
And later, you'll meet a remarkable man. Truly incredible. As a teen, he spent a dozen years unable to talk, unable to move to everyone. They thought he was in a vegetative state, that he was unable to hear and think, but in fact he was totally aware nearly the entire time. How he survived trapped in his own body for some 12 years? His story tonight.
There's that, plus late word of airstrikes against ISIS and a remarkable Pentagon study suggesting that Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, might, and I say might, be on the autism spectrum, that he might have Asperger's.
A lot to cover tonight. We begin with the TransAsia crash, how 15 men, women, and children, including several very young kids, survived this.
Well, 58 passengers and crew members were on board that flight as it fell to earth shortly after takeoff in Taipei. And whether by good luck or good piloting, the French and Italian-made ATR 72 missed a block of high-rise apartment buildings before hitting a bridge and falling to the river.
We'll talk shortly about the investigation which is ongoing, but first, Anna Coren with some of the survivors.
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The final moments before the crash from inside the cockpit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayday. Mayday. Engine flameout.
COREN: Amid such a tragedy, there were miraculous stories of survival and heroism. Perhaps none more dramatic than this young boy, seen here in the arms of his father, Lin Mingwei. Shortly before takeoff Lin reported heard a noise that made him uneasy so he asked to move his family's seats to the right side of the plane. That move most likely saved their lives since the plane crashed on its left side.
But the aftermath of the crash brought more danger. Lin searched for his son in the murky waters of the Keelung River for three agonizing minutes until he spotted him.
"He saw my nephew's feet in the water and pulled him out," he says. "His lips were blue, there was no sign of life. My brother performed CPR and was able to revive him, and then they got out onto to the wing waiting for a rescue team."
This 72-year-old man also saved lives, helping pull several people out of the wreckage before getting himself to safety.
"When I saw them, they were almost fully submerged in the water. If we weren't rescued immediately, he would have drowned, he would have died."
One describes the moment on the flight when he realized something was terribly wrong.
"Not long after takeoff, the engine didn't seem right," he says. "There was a woman seated next to me, I told her to hurry up and take off her seatbelt and just grab on to the back of the seat in front of us and hold a bag of clothes over our head. Not long after I said that, the plane went down."
The driver of this taxi clipped by the crashing airplane also survived. In part by luck but also by keeping a cool head and his car under control. He called his dispatch operator to try to explain what had happened.
His passengers survived. Much credit is being given to the pilot whose quick maneuvering may have saved many lives while sacrificing his own.
"We are so sad," his family member says. "Yet his mom is proud of him."
COOPER: Just incredible.
Anna, you were inside the hospital where the survivors are. What did you learn?
COREN: Yes, Anderson. We just spoke to the dean of the hospital and he said it's just a miracle that anyone is alive. That little toddler that we featured in that piece, he is now out of ICU and is recovering. There are other patients in critical condition, but they're confident everyone will survive.
Investigators waiting to speak to these passengers, in particular the crew member, a 26-year-old woman, perhaps the only crew member to have survived. We know that the pilot and the co-pilot were killed in the crash. Obviously wanting to know more about those engine problems that the plane appeared to be experiencing. Certainly, that was communicated during that mayday call. But certainly, that crew member of particular focus.
The survivors, those 15 survivors, many of them speaking about this pilot and his heroics and bravery, because he really did stop that plane from flying into a densely populated suburb and really causing a much greater disaster -- Anderson.
COOPER: We'll learn a lot more once the black boxes are examined.
Anna Coren, appreciate the reporting.
The fact that a number of survivors found themselves hanging upside with their seatbelts is a reminder to us all how important buckling up can be. The question, of course, is when to fasten them and whether there's ever a good reason not to comes up frequently after a disaster like this.
Want some answers now from Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what can happen 30,000 feet above the ground -- chaos inside American Airlines Flight 280. Flying this past December from South Korea to Dallas.
When the Boeing 777 dropped suddenly over Japan, passengers panicked and pulled out their cell phones to record the drama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the sudden, there's just this big drop in food, and plates, and service, and materials, my iPhone, everything just started flying all over the place.
KAYE: Some screamed, others prayed, as the plane rocked. Wine splashed on the overhead bins, food and trash spilled into the aisles.
The plane made an emergency landing in Tokyo. Five people were taken to the hospital. If the passengers and crew hadn't been wearing their seatbelts, it could have been much worse.
(On camera): The FAA says each year, approximately 58 people in the United States are injured by turbulence because they're not wearing their seatbelts. Between 1980 and 2008, the FAA recorded three fatalities and found that two of the three were not wearing seatbelts even though the seatbelt light was illuminated.
(Voice-over): In 2013, this Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to London hit terrible turbulence just as flight attendants were serving breakfast. Immediately, the fasten seatbelt sign was turned on. The plane reportedly dropped 65 feet, injuring 11 passengers and one crew member. Food flew, coffee hit the ceiling. One passenger told reporters anything that wasn't tied down hit the ceiling as the plane dropped.
ALAN CROSS, PASSENGER ON SQ308: Suddenly, it felt like we were in an elevator and somebody had cut the cable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god. It's an accident.
KAYE (on camera): When Asiana Flight 214 crash-landed in San Francisco in July 2013, two passengers were ejected from the plane. It was later discovered they were not wearing their seatbelts.
(Voice-over): Both died, though one of them, 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan, actually survived the crash only to be run over by an emergency vehicle responding to the scene.
The NTSB found that had those two passengers been wearing their seatbelts, they likely would have remained inside the plane and survived.
Seatbelts may help passengers survive but in some cases they can trap them in their seats. On Wednesday, this TransAsia Airways plane crashed into the river shortly after takeoff in Taipei. With the cabin already chest deep in water, rescue crews found passengers tangled in their seatbelts. Hanging upside down.
One 72-year-old man said he helped save four people by undoing their seatbelts. He says they would have died if he hadn't moved quickly.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: A lot to talk about when it comes to airline safety in general as well as the latest in the TransAsia crash, in particular joining us CNN safety analyst and accident investigator David Soucie, he is author of "Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Why It Disappeared, Why It's Only a Matter of Time Before It Happens Again." Also aviation correspondent Richard Quest.
I mean, clearly, the message from that piece which I get loud and clear is the importance of buckling your seatbelt.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because --
COOPER: Because I've always been a little skeptical about it, I got to be honest.
QUEST: Well --
COOPER: On a plane.
QUEST: The point is the -- those cases where a passenger is ejected from the aircraft safely and they therefore get away because they didn't have their seatbelt fastened or those cases such as the -- in the TransAsia or -- where not wearing your seatbelt was the key to your survival. They are fewer and further apart than those were buckling up because if the plane does take a dive, if it does have an emergency landing, your seat is designed to withstand certain G forces when you're wearing the belt and you're properly buckled.
COOPER: So that's why it's important to stay with the seat.
QUEST: Absolutely. And also why it's important to have the seat in the upright and stowed position because again that's where the seat was designed and certified for the G forces.
COOPER: And David, the kind of turbulence we just saw in Randi's piece, how often does it actually get that bad? Because I've been flying all the time, I've never been on a plane where it's been really bad. I mean, I've been lucky.
DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: You know, like me, I've flown many times. Maybe had that kind of turbulence two or three times. It's very, very rare but when it does happen, it's severe.
And what infuriates me about people who don't wear seatbelts is the thought that -- the reason you wear a seatbelt is to protect yourself, obviously, but when you don't have that seatbelt on in an accident, in turbulence, you become a projectile going through that cabin. The seat backs are not made to withstand some pressure from the back, so without a seatbelt on, you could literally in an accident crush the person in front of you.
SOUCIE: And that's the reason you keep your seatbelt on. When you take them off, that's a severe hazard. I hate to say it, but it could have caused other injuries and possibly death to other people by not having your seatbelt on.
COOPER: And, Richard, you know, we've heard now about some airlines talking about having standing seats.
QUEST: Ryanair. Ryanair is the one.
COOPER: Ryanair. Ryanair. Is there any way to -- for that to really be safe?
QUEST: Well, they said they'd looked at the rules and that there was, you know, provided you were strapped in, it's more like a bench that you were going to be strapped into. It ain't going to happen.
COOPER: It's not going to happen.
QUEST: The regulator made it very swiftly clear that that was not -- that was highly unlikely. One of the other things, I mean, we were talking about seatbelts here, one of the other thing is the speed in which passengers want to take their shoes off before takeoff.
COOPER: Don't even get me started.
QUEST: No, but it's -- and on goes -- COOPER: But you're saying that's a safety issue?
QUEST: Of course. Do you want to have to evacuate the aircraft --
COOPER: I see.
QUEST: -- running over jagged pieces of metal, burning oil and the like, because you wanted to be taking your shoes off before you get in the air?
COOPER: It's a good note. I've never thought about it.
David, the family of the TransAsia flight, the family on board that flight, they switched seats and they moved to the rear of the plane. Basically kind of -- they just felt like something was wrong after they heard something that made them uncomfortable.
Could that move have been part of the reason they survived? Because I've always heard it's in the rear of the aircraft that's actually safer.
SOUCIE: Yes, when there's an aircraft that crashes nose first like this one did, it is safer in the back of the aircraft. Unfortunately, you don't ever know when the aircraft is going to go in nose first, to the side, to the left, roll over. You really don't know. But statistically, it is safer in the back of the aircraft because it absorbs most of the impact in the front of the aircraft in the first class section.
COOPER: And, I mean, Richard, you know, we've seen a number of air crashes this year. Is it just a coincidence or -- I mean, are there things -- statistically are things safer now in terms of air travel than they've ever been?
QUEST: Just over 900 people in 2014 died in air crashes. Just over 20 odd -- 21 I think it is incidents took place, but most of those numbers can be taken up by two incidents, MH-370 and MH-17.
QUEST: Take away those and remember that there were three billion passenger journeys last year and you start to see statistically, you are -- the numbers are infinitesimally small.
COOPER: Right. It's good to know.
Richard Quest, thanks very much. Good to have it in context. David Soucie as well.
Coming up next, Jordan, hitting ISIS hard and saying it is only the beginning. We'll talk about where it might end.
And later why a mother of three who got stuck in a railroad crossing with room in time to back up, to get off the tracks did not get out of the way of the oncoming train. Details ahead.
COOPER: Welcome back to the program.
Jordan's King Abdullah promised earth-shaking retaliation against ISIS for the murder of one of their pilots. Well, today, it began. Jordanian warplanes pounding ISIS targets in Syria. The first of what could be many airstrikes, King Abdullah vowing to keep it up until, in his words, the country runs out of fuel and bullets.
For more on how it's unfolding in the region, we're joined by CNN's Jomana Karadsheh in Amman.
So what is the latest about the score and the size of these airstrikes?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, in a mission that the Jordanians have named Moath the Martyr in reference to the fallen pilot, they say that Jordanian fighter jets carried out a round of airstrikes on unspecified locations, ISIS locations, in Syria. They say that the targets included training camps and weapons and ammunition storage facilities.
We heard from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying that 10 militants had been killed in the airstrikes and ISIS posted pictures of the destruction.
Now when this happened, Anderson, when it was announced, we were in the hometown of the Jordanian pilot and that is when we saw fighter jets flying at a low altitude in what seemed to be a tribute to a fallen colleague and Jordanian state television said that these same fighter jets had just returned from mission carrying out these airstrikes.
COOPER: It's interesting they're saying really only 10 ISIS members have actually been killed in these -- in what they're saying are, you know, vastly big uptick in these flights, in these bombings. Do we know if the Jordanian government is considering anything beyond actual airstrikes? I mean, is there any talk of ground personnel?
KARADSHEH: Well, a short time ago, we heard the Jordan's foreign minister, Natso Judith, speaking on CNN, speaking to Wolf Blitzer. He did not rule out ground forces. But he certainly did not commit his country to any ground troops. He said that these airstrikes are effective and, Anderson, it does seem like you mentioned earlier, Jordan is saying that his is just the beginning of its retaliation, its response to ISIS, and it's not clear where this is headed. And it really appears that all options are on the table right now.
COOPER: All right. Jomana, thanks very much. Appreciate the reporting.
The U.S. of course plays a leading role in the coalition against ISIS. The question is, what kind of role does American military equipment and personnel play in these latest strikes?
For that, let's go to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. What do we know about how the U.S. assisted Jordan with the strikes?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson. We now know that about 20 U.S. aircraft, 20 airplanes flew alongside the Jordanians. There were F-16s to jam ISIS communications, on the ground, advanced Air Force F-22 fighters flying over watched, they are able to get very sophisticated targeting data and pass it along. Drones overhead, refueling airplanes, so everybody could get in and out of the zone.
This is pretty much how the coalition has been operating, I should say, all the way since the beginning. Nobody flies alone. No country flies alone. Everybody goes as a team. But in this operation, these 20 targets that the Jordanians hit, the U.S. was with them all the way. This was something that was very emotional for the Jordanian Air Force and they wanted to carry out as much of the bombing as they could -- Anderson.
COOPER: I just want to understand the emotion about it. We've talked before, though, a lot about how difficult it is targeting ISIS in terms of actually getting significant targets. How is the coalition actually finding these targets? I mean, were these --
STARR: Well -- yes.
COOPER: Twenty targets -- did suddenly 20 targets just appear?
STARR: Well, that's exactly the point, and that's the military reality of it. What we know isn't about the -- in the last 72 hours, the U.S. and Jordan worked together conducting reconnaissance missions over this area looking for any indication of ISIS operations, those weapons depots, those training areas. Very tough to find. In fact, you're raising the key point. There are not a lot of ISIS targets just sitting out there in the open that are very easy to target.
They have to develop the intelligence where they are. And the big problem right now, ISIS is kind of melding into the woodwork, if you will. The fighters are dispersing, they're taking off any uniforms that they might have, mixing them with civilian populations, no longer driving around the countryside in large convoys in military vehicles. Reducing their profile as much as they can because they know the coalition's coming after them.
They certainly knew the Jordanians were coming after them. So what they're trying to do is just basically not present any profile for those bombing runs and so it's a bit of a cat and mouse game right now.
COOPER: Yes. We'll see how long airstrikes remain effective to the degree that they are now.
Barbara Starr, thanks as always.
Just ahead, parents and kids at a daycare center are on edge tonight after at least two infants developed measles. Three more cases are suspected. We'll take you there next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: The multi-state measles outbreak continues to grow and could grow further if a suspected case in New Jersey is confirmed. State health officials told local media that they're looking to whether a Jersey City toddler who had not yet been vaccinated and who had since recovered did in fact have measles.
Meantime in the Chicago area, doctors and parents spent the day coming to grips with the virus in the worst possible place for it, a daycare center.
More on that now from senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, who joins us now.
So the cases in Chicago, what do we know about them?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What we know, Anderson, is that there have been two cases of measles and this is among infants under the age of one and three more suspected cases they're just waiting for the lab work to come back.
Now we don't know exactly how these children became infected. We do know that 10 more children, 10 more babies, are asked to stay at home in quarantine for 21 days. They're not sick but there's a pretty good chance that they will become sick because measles is so incredibly contagious.
Now, kinder care, that daycare that we just saw, they now say well, it's all around the country, if you want to work for us and take care of infants, you have to show that you've been vaccinated against measles.
COOPER: Now, obviously, they'd be investigating possible linkages between people. Is there any way to know are these cases at all linked to Disneyland ones?
COHEN: You know, Anderson, they're still looking at that and sill trying to figure it out but I'll tell you, as we further and further away from the beginning of this outbreak, it's going to be harder to trace it back because maybe someone sat on a plane who knew someone who had been at Disneyland. It gets harder and harder to trace that chain, so it's possible we may never know.
COOPER: And again, it's important to point out, these babies weren't vaccinated just because they weren't old enough to be.
COHEN: Correct. You don't vaccinate children until 12 to 15 months of age. And the reason for that s that often it just doesn't take if you do it younger than that.
COOPER: We talked also -- you and I have talked about this before how adults of a certain age, there's a possibility that they don't have full immunity because they didn't receive the second booster which is now recommended. You actually got tested to see if you're immune, is that right? COHEN: That's right. So if you were born before 1990, which, you
know, of course, I was, then you only got one shot. So I know I got a shot as a child but I wasn't sure if I was fully immune. That one shot doesn't always take and I thought, wow, I'm doing these stories, I might be, you know, talking to people who have measles, so I went and did what's called getting your tiders checked, and they take blood and they see if you got antibodies.
And I am immune, so I was glad to hear that so I can continue this work, and I don't have to worry about becoming infected.
Now, Anderson, I will tell you with a little bit of a process to do this, it costs money. Not everyone is going to want to do it to get their tiders checked. So what you can do --
COOPER: Is it an expensive test?
COHEN: I'm sorry?
COOPER: Is it expensive?
COHEN: It costs about $110.
COHEN: So -- and insurance is not always going to pay for it, so it's not a ton of money, but certainly it's $110.
COHEN: And a lot of doctors are saying now, look, you know, it's a pain in the neck, you have to go, you have to get tested, you have to pay, and so if you have any questions, you can always just get another measles shot. It's not going to hurt you.
COOPER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.
Now earlier this week, Randi Kaye reported on a pediatric practice in southern California that was planning to vote on whether to continue treating unvaccinated kids. Tonight we have an update from Dr. Eric Bell -- Ball who Randi interviewed in her report.
He says, the 12 doctors and four nurse practitioners in this group practice have unanimously decided to no longer treat unimmunized or under-immunized patients. Dr. Ball says it was a difficult decision but they hope it will reassure people and protect their most vulnerable patients. He was treating kids who had measles in cars, keep -- trying to keep them out of the office, now saying -- they're saying they're not going to treat anyone who hasn't been vaccinated or is under-vaccinated.
Just ahead, the fiery train crash that killed six people in New York still a big mystery in many ways, including the -- it killed the driver of the SUV that was on the tracks the train hit. She got out when the gate came down on her car. Then got back in. The big question tonight is why, why was she on the tracks, why didn't she get off?
We'll tell you what we know about her next.
COOPER: Eight people hurt in that deadly train SUV collision are still being treated for their injuries. As you know, six people died in the crash which happened about 30 miles north of New York in the peak of rush hour. Hundreds were on board the packed commuter train. A big question in the investigation is why the SUV was stopped on the tracks as the train approached, and why the driver, who was killed, got back into her vehicle moments before it was struck. Now, tonight, we're learning more about her and the family that she leaves behind. Poppy Harlow reports.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ellen Brody, a beloved wife and mother of three girls.
BENLY SILVERMAN, RABBI, CHABAD OF RIVERTOWNS: Her girls really adore her, her husband never heard of - very close, such really just a beautiful family unit.
HARLOW: Friends and loved ones grappling with how her life could have been cut so short.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a tragic accident. You wonder why it happened. But certainly, it was not her, she was not a careless person. She would not ever do anything that would put anybody at risk.
HARLOW: Just 49 years old, Brody was driving the SUV that was struck on the tracks in the deadliest train crash in Metro-North history. She is among the six people who perished.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
HARLOW: Rick Hope was in the car directly behind Brody and recounted the fatal moment to the journal news.
RICK HOPE: As we're waiting to cross the tracks, the gate comes down in front of me and it comes down and hits the top of her car. I'm able to back up and then waiting for her to back up, but instead, she gets out of the car, she gets out, she walks around the back, looks at the arm that's on the back of the car, she looks at me, I gesture to come back, I back up again further to indicate that there's plenty of room to back up and she turns, walks and gets back in the car, slight hesitation, she -- and then moves forward and at that instant, the train came.
HARLOW: Why Brody's SUV was on the tracks is central to the investigation. Eyewitnesses say a separate accident backed up traffic and many drivers took an alternate route to avoid it. The NTSB is investigating if the detour played any role and is trying to recover data from the memory modules in Brody's SUV. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found that the crossing arm and the traffic
signal, they both operated as designed. There were no problems found.
HARLOW: Brody worked alongside Varda Singer in Virginia Shasha, at this jewelry store for ten years.
VARDA SINGER: She had a million dollar smile. She, to me, was a saint because she is one of the most - the least, the selfless person I've ever known.
HARLOW: She was driving home from work when she was killed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One word. She just had a beautiful soul. She looked for the good in others.
HARLOW: Her husband, Alan, posting this message on Facebook thanking all who have shared their condolences.
COOPER: And Poppy Harlow joins me now from Valhalla, New York. Is there any indication that Mrs. Brody was trying to beat the train, or that she even saw it?
HARLOW: It's a good question. There's really not. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo saying this week, that it doesn't appear that she was trying to race ahead to beat the train. He believed at this point in time, she was likely confused. Obviously, there are still so many questions. The NTSB just getting through their first day of a full investigation day today. They were able to interview the engineer. Interestingly, Anderson, telling us tonight that the engineer did see the SUV on the tracks and they were going within the speed limit when they pulled that emergency brake. There were also 39 seconds we have learned between when those emergency warning signals and lights started going off, then when the train crossed that intersection and that fateful moment happened. So many questions, the people here cannot believe what has happened. I can tell you, this is a loving mother. She was about to turn 50 in March. Her husband was planning her 50th birthday. She leaves behind also three daughters, age 15 to 22. It is an absolute tragedy and still so many questions remain. Anderson.
COOPER: Poppy, I appreciate getting up to date on it. Thank you.
Up next, this is just an incredible story. I hope you stay for it. Imagine being trapped inside your own body. It happened to man named Martin Pistorius when he was a teenager, it started when he was 12 years old. And for 12 years, he couldn't move or speak, but he says for most of that time, for about ten of those years, he was aware of everything around him. He just couldn't talk. He couldn't move his body. His mom at one point said to him that she wished he would die. Her grief was that much and she didn't realize he heard it all. His incredible story in his own words next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: The next story of what happened to these young men, it's a living nightmare that difficult to imagine. The young man locked inside his own body for more than a decade after doctors said he was in a vegetative state. What doctor and his parents didn't know was that Martin Pistorius was aware of everything that was going on around him. He just - he couldn't move, he couldn't communicate, he couldn't communicate his thoughts. Martin wrote a book about his incredible experienced called "Ghost Boy: the Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body." Martin Pistorius communicates now through a computer because he's improved. I spoke with him recently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: For 12 years, Martin Pistorius says he was trapped inside his own body. He suffered from an illness no one could explain, and doctors said he was in some sort of vegetative state. What no one realized was that for most of those 12 long years, Martin was fully conscious.
MARTIN PISTORIUS, AUTHOR "GHOST BOY": You can hear, see, and understand everything around you. For me, the feeling of complete and utter powerlessness is probably the worst feeling I have ever experienced.
COOPER: Growing up in South Africa, Martin was a happy and healthy child, but in January of 1988, when he was 12 years old, he came home from school complaining of a sore throat.
PISTORIUS: At first, the doctors thought I had flu and prescribed the usual treatment, however, my condition steadily got worse and I was hospitalized.
COOPER: Doctors performed test after test on Martin and treated him for tuberculosis and something called cryptococcal meningitis. But they never made an official diagnosis. They just didn't know.
PISTORIUS: My body weakened, and I lost the ability to speak and control my movements.
COOPER: Doctors thought he'd fallen into a vegetative state where he couldn't see or hear anything around him, they didn't know how to cure it and they gave him two years to live.
PISTORIUS: The doctors said to take me home and wait for me to die.
COOPER: Everything morning, Martin's father would wake him up, bathe him, feed him and take him to a care center never knowing his son was actually aware of everything that was happening to him.
(on camera): I want to read something that you wrote in the book. You wrote, "Have you ever seen one of those movies, in which someone wakes up as a ghost, but they don't know they've died? That's how it was, as I realized people were looking through and around me and I didn't understand why."
How did you cope? I mean feeling like you're invisible. How did you cope all those years?
PISTORIUS: Mostly through escaping into my mind. I would imagine all sorts of things like being very small and climbing into a spaceship and flying away or that my wheelchair would magically transform into a flying vehicle out of James Bond with rockets and missiles. I would sometimes watch things move whether it be - move throughout the day or watching insects of some sort scurry about.
COOPER: He says he was abused at some of the care centers he was brought to over the years. But one of the things that upset him the most was being placed in front of a television for hours at a time with nothing else to watch but Barney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, you love me, we're a happy family
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PISTORIUS: I often spent my days positioned in front of the TV. To this day, I hate Barney, not that I have anything against Barney, but it triggers memories and emotions which are really difficult for me.
COOPER: You write about your mom as well. And a time when your mom in the midst of distress said that essentially she wished you would die and when I read that, I just kept thinking about, for you being, hearing that, you did hear it. You did understand what she had said. How did you deal with that?
PISTORIUS: It was like her son died when he was 12. So while I was very sad and upset by what she said, I understood where that was coming from.
COOPER: Were there times when you actually wanted to die? I mean not being able to communicate, trapped in your body, and trapped with your thoughts constantly like that. I mean, you wrote that there was a time you actually wanted to die.
PISTORIUS: Yes. In some of the darkest moments, I not only wanted to die, but I longed for death to realize me. I also often felt everyone would be better off if I were dead.
COOPER: One of his nurses came to believe that Martin understood what she was saying to him. His nurse, Verena, she urged his parents to get him tested again.
PISTORIUS: She was the catalyst to change everything, and if it had not been for her, I would probably have been all forgotten in a care home somewhere.
COOPER (voice over): To his doctors' astonishment Martin showed signs he could understand and slowly began to be able to communicate once again.
(on camera): What was that like? PISTORIUS: I guess the best word would be relief and also excitement.
Mixed in with a bit of trepidation. I remember leaving the assessment and feeling happy and just like, wow. But also thinking to myself, what is next?
COOPER: Martin's physical health improved along with his ability to communicate. Now, he's able to slowly type words into a computer that turn into speech which is why we gave him some of our questions in advance. Martin went on to get a college degree, he now owns his Web site design business and even met and married a wonderful woman named Johanna.
(on camera): What do you think the connection for you was?
JOHANNA PISTORIUS, MARTIN PISTORIUS'S WIFE: I think that the initial connection was - so attractive, but we ...
COOPER: He's blushing.
JOHANNA PISTORIUS: From the start, we are really honest with one another and really listen without any judgment and therefore, we could share our innermost feelings. We just understand one another.
PISTORIUS: And now we are talking about starting a family. That's something we're really excited about.
COOPER (voice over): What happened to Martin is still a mystery, and while doctors say he won't be able to walk or talk again, he continues to grow stronger mentally and physically every day.
(on camera): For people who are watching this, what do you want them to take away from your story?
PISTORIUS: I think that there is always hope no matter how small. And also, to treat everyone with kindness, dignity, compassion and respect. Whether you think they understand or not. To never underestimate the power of the mind, the importance of love and faith and to never stop dreaming.
COOPER: Such an incredible tale. And he's a remarkable guy. I want to dig deeper on this to try to understand what happened. Martin Pistorius allowed our two medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to review his medical records. As you know, Sanjay is a practicing neurosurgeon. He joins us now. So, I mean I just find this incredible and terrifying at the same time. With implications may be for other people. I mean for him to have regained consciousness after 12 years and really to have been present, really, after the first two years, even though doctors thought he was in some kind of a vegetative state, how often does something like that happen?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, to your point, it seems to be happening more than we realize and when you think about vegetative state, by definition, it means that people have no awareness. They could be a sort of in a wakeful state, they could be eye opening, even yawning, things like that, but they have no awareness. That's the definition. So when someone like Martin, you know, for 12 years, they thought he was in a vegetative state, but, in fact, he had awareness, it is frightening. And if you look at the numbers there's in the United States, about 25,000 people who have this diagnosis of vegetative state.
But what they are doing is they are finding more and more by doing scans of their brain, by simply looking in their eyes, things like that and seeing if they control eye movements to command, they are finding these people may be more aware and responsive than you realize. It's hard to put a number on it, though.
COOPER: And I mean, you know, one doesn't want to take hope away from anybody for family members who have somebody in that state, you also don't want to give false hope. What is a family supposed to do in this case, Martin's family was told by doctors, well, you know, we are going to send him home, he'll probably die within two years and just kind of make him as comfortable as you can. What are you supposed to do?
GUPTA: Well, you know, Martin's case was even more unique in that, you know, he didn't - they didn't know what was causing this. Sometimes like a young person who has a brain injury, for example, because of trauma, you know, people are going to be more aggressive because young people tend to have a better likelihood of recovering from brain trauma or a very young child, for example, who, you know, drowns for example in a swimming pool. That happens. They may have - they may still have some likelihood of recovery. So, you have to sort of balance all that with what the diagnosis is. In this case, he didn't have a diagnosis. They treated him with antibiotics, they treated him with anti-fungal agents. That wasn't because they knew that he had infections, it was because they didn't know what he had and they were willing to sort of try anything. So it's, you know, for a family, they just needed to keep - trying to push to get an answer.
COOPER: To be trapped, though, I mean like he was - especially as a teenager with all the thoughts you have in your head and not be able to express them, not be able to let anybody else know and to not have any control over your life and, you know, be plunked down and watching Barney all day long, I mean it's just - It's just terrifying.
GUPTA: It remind me more almost of what is known as a locked in state, Anderson. You may have heard of this state. There was a famous book, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."
COOPER: Right. Incredible movie.
GUPTA: It's an incredible movie and the man was ultimately able to, using eye movements, transcribe a book, but they thought because he could not move anything in his body, he had no movement whatsoever other than his eye movements, they thought he was in a vegetative state. Finally, when someone realized that he was moving his eyes to some sort of command, that's when they realized he was in a locked in state. It's horrifying. In his case, he was able to communicate in some way but I can't imagine what it was like for Martin for 12 years.
COOPER: Yeah, I'm still happy, I mean he's found love and has a life. Sanjay, thank you so much.
GUPTA: Thank you. You get it.
COOPER: His book is called "Ghost Boy" by the way.
Up next, his behavior often raises eyebrows, but a Pentagon report claims there is a medical reason behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's sometimes strange actions.
COOPER: For years now, Observer watched President Vladimir Putin with curiosity and others are more than curious about him. With a recently discovered Pentagon study from 2008 as for one of the key theories in it? Although he may have Asperger's syndrome, the question is, what explains that? More from Joe Johns.
VLADIMIR PUTIN (speaking Russian)
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New Year's Day 2000, the first television footage of the newly appointed Russian President Vladimir Putin and, of course, the Pentagon was watching. Years later, the Defense Department's office of Net Assessment, which analyzes the way foreign leaders move for clues about how to deal with him issued a startling analysis of these and other Putin images.
The Russian president carries a neurological abnormality, Asperger's syndrome, an autistic disorder, which affects all of his decisions. The unclassified report written in 2008, another in 2011, are now only becoming part of the record. The White House press secretary dodging a question about it.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I saw that report today. I don't have any comment on that Pentagon report.
JOHNS: Many descriptions of Putin in the report are stark. Brenda Connors authored the report saying is supported at the reptilian stage where the need for order proceeds all interaction. His primary coping strategy is to control.
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: The researcher that determines this, determines the identity of the individuals that she wants to look at on her own, there is no guidance from DOD.
JOHNS: Among the Putin moments cited in support of her Asperger's theory, the time in 2005 when Putin was inspecting the Super Bowl ring of New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, Putin actually pocketed it. Asperger's is a disorder on the autism spectrum characterized by normal range IQ and language skills, but social awkwardness. The 2011 report focused on Putin and his protege, Dmitry Medvedev describing the former as a chess player and the latter as an action man in terms of their leadership styles. The Pentagon says the research program cost about $300,000 a year and is used to help U.S. officials prepare for interactions with foreign leaders.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, U.S. ARMY (RET.): The way that person makes decisions, what might infuriate them or cause them to be more calm in negotiations.
JOHNS: The report did include a disclaimer pointing out that brain scanning through MRI presumably cannot be conducted on Putin. Experts we spoke with were highly skeptical about the reliability of this Asperger's claim.
DR. TRACEY MARKS, PSYCHIATRIST: It's not reasonable. No confident clinician would render a clinical diagnosis simply based on observations from a video. You really need a lot more symptomatology, a lot more history to make this kind of diagnosis.
JOHNS: The Pentagon makes clear that the views in the report are just those of the author, not the official position of the Defense Department or that of the U.S. government. Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Not sure that was worth $300,000 a year. Let's get the latest in other stories we are following tonight. Amara Walker has a "360" news and business bulletin. Amara.
AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anderson. At the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, the defense grilled top police officers on their handling of the crime scene accusing them of sloppiness. Tomorrow, jurors will visit the industrial park where Odin Lloyd's body was found. They'll also tour Hernandez's house. Today, the judge ordered that any items not inside the house at the time of the murder must be removed or covered for the visit.
The judge in the capital murder trial of Eddie Rauth has denied a motion by the defense to delay the trial until public attention decides. Rauth is accused of killing forward Navy SEAL Chris Kyle whose life is featured in the blockbuster movie, "American Sniper." Jury selection began today.
And Sony pictures entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal is stepping down weeks after a devastating cyberattack exposed embarrassing e- mails sent by studio executives. Son said Pascal will launch a new production venture at the studio in May.
COOPER: All right. Amara, thanks very much. And that's it for us. Morgan Spurlock's "INSIDE MAN" starts now.