By LISA CAPOBIANCO
CBS This Morning contributor and best-selling author Lee Woodruff knows firsthand how life can change in an instant.
In January 2006, Woodruff’s husband, Bob Woodruff, newly appointed co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight at the time, was reporting on U.S. and Iraqi security forces when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle. Both Bob and his cameraman were hit, and Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him.
The mother of four and a public relations executive at the time, Woodruff shared her personal story during a special event hosted by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce at the Aqua Turf Club last Monday.
“With a traumatic brain injury, you have no idea how that person is going to turn out,” said Woodruff, who met Bob in college.
Bob was in a coma for five weeks, and it was uncertain what the future would hold, recalled Woodruff.
“Each day that he didn’t wake up…the prognosis is worse,” said Woodruff, who was at Disney World with her children at the time of Bob’s injury.
Woodruff’s oldest daughter was the first child to visit Bob in the hospital. When she kissed his cheek, said Woodruff, a tear came down from Bob’s eye.
“It was the first sign we had that maybe he heard us,” said Woodruff.
After Bob ultimately woke up from his coma “all of a sudden,” he had difficulty with the English language, yet still remembered words in Mandarin and French.
“His primary language, English, had been the most severely damaged,” said Woodruff, adding how her family learned so many amazing lessons about the brain after Bob’s injury. “Bob’s brain was finding scrambled eggs in English, and it was going over into the Mandarin file and trying to communicate, and moving over into the French file and trying to communicate.”
During her presentation, Woodruff discussed the four legs of her stool that helped her overcome hardship: family, friends, faith and funny.
Noting how she “stepped out of her life” when receiving the phone call about her husband’s injury, Woodruff said she received an outpouring of support and help from friends after the tragedy.
“Friends literally had to come to my house, open my drawers and…put together what I would need to know and what my life would look like moving forward if [Bob] didn’t make it, or if he sort of never recovered,” said Woodruff. “That was an incredible act of friendship.”
Woodruff also mentioned the role that faith played in her life after the tragedy. Despite any doubts expressed by the doctors, she told herself that Bob could have a miracle.
“No one has a right ever to take hope away,” said Woodruff.
After Bob’s injury, Woodruff also maintained her sense of humor.
“When you’re able to laugh at that thing that has its power over you, diminish some of that power,” said Woodruff.
Woodruff said her story also represents “the story of so many of our young men and women who raise their hands to serve” at a time when there is no draft.
Bob’s miracle inspired his family to give injured heroes access to the high level of support and resources they deserve, for as long as they need it through the Bob Woodruff Foundation. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the foundation, which has invested nearly $30 million in 281 programs nationwide, according to the foundation’s 2015 Annual Report.
“You learn a lot of things when you go through something. You learn what’s important, and…certainly what’s not important,” said Woodruff. “Life is short, but the only things that matter are those connections that we can touch.”
After her presentation, Woodruff signed copies of her bestseller, “In an Instant.” During the event, a Memory Walk took place to honor those who have made an impact on the lives of others. All attendees were invited to bring a photo or note to honor an important person, living or deceased, who has affected their lives in a positive way.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center’s Veterans’ Program—an equine facilitated learning and coaching program for veterans that stimulates an interest in learning and practicing new skill-based tools designed to promote healthy relationships, emotion regulations and the rewiring of neural pathways.
“It’s improving the quality of their daily lives…by supporting the healing of trauma-related, invisible wounds and creating a sense of well-being,” said Cindy Scoville, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.