VERO BEACH — They were a “power couple” living gratifying lives: he was a former attorney turned award-winning journalist and co-anchorman on ABC’s World News Tonight; she was an author and contributing editor for ABC’s Good Morning America show and they had four wonderful children.
But on Jan. 29, 2006, while on assignment in war-torn Iraq , Bob Woodruff sustained a near-fatal head injury when a roadside bomb struck the tank in which he was riding. Life for him, wife, Lee, and their children took a dramatic turn into a horror show that had an unexpectedly happy ending.
The daunting road back to recovery and the Woodruffs’ commitment to helping veterans and others with traumatic brain injuries were discussed Saturday to a capacity audience in the Celebrated Speakers Series at The Emerson Center in Vero Beach. The couple authored the best-selling “In an Instant,” which chronicles the incident and the challenges to head trauma patients and their families.
“Our story illustrates that life can change and how you act and respond. I think our story binds people together,” Lee Woodruff said.
Bob Woodruff’s recovery from a severe head injury and lengthy recuperation was, he said, “absolutely miraculous” despite initial doubts that he would live. After remaining unconscious for 36 days, he awakened to supportive family members, friends and colleagues and superb military medical treatment that enabled him to speak, walk and work again.
“The great hope of my recovery is to make sure people injured in the war receive the same care. Our life was changed in an instant,” he said.
“Bob went from reporting the news to being the news. But life happens. You can’t rewind the tape. Learn to live in the moment and step back and leave a few dishes in the sink,” Lee Woodruff said.
In the aftermath of his injury, Bob Woodruff won a Peabody Award for a series of reports entitled “Wounds of War – The Long Road Home for Our Nations Veterans.” The couple has established the Bob Woodruff Foundation to assist wounded veterans and their families in receiving needed long-term care and reintegration back into daily life.
“Faith, family and friends are what helped us make it in our recovery and the Foundation is the outlet for our gratitude. That’s become our mission in the wake of all this,” Lee Woodruff said.