Lee Woodruff: Love, Anger, Hope in Caring for Husband

"I walked in that room again expecting to see the same old, same old and there was Bob -- shaved head, goofy grin on his face sitting up in bed," she said. "He looked at me and he just said, 'Sweetie, where have you been? What'd you go out for coffee?'"

"And I wish that I'd had a camera. I would have loved to have seen my face because I remember thinking two things. One: oh my goodness, he's awake; oh my gosh, he's awake," she said. "And then thinking where's the rolling pin? I need the Lucy Ricardo. 'Ricky, where do you think I've been? I've been right by your bed for five weeks.'"

No one was more astonished than the doctors who say they still don't know how a man with a damaged language center in his brain could be talking.

Recently, Lee and Bob traveled the path back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"These are all of the people that helped saved my life. They had been with me for five weeks," Bob said. "I didn't recognize any of them because I never met them and this was the first time I was able to meet them."

Then they entered the room where for so long Lee held onto Bob for his life -- his old hospital room.

"We had made that room sort of a shrine to Bob's life -- photos all over the room, pictures from school children," Lee said. "We spent so much time in that room and ... it was about all the people that had been in that room since Bob left it ... I thought how many other wives have sat by this same bed."

As the book recounts, Bob's near-fatal brain injury in Iraq was not the first encounter with fear or heartbreak in their marriage.

Right before the wedding, Lee had a lump in her breast. It was benign.

Then the couple experienced long periods spent apart during his career as a foreign correspondent. For her, she also had a devastating miscarriage and hysterectomy. One of her twin daughters was born with profound hearing loss.

But nothing could prepare Lee for learning so much anew.

During Bob's homecoming, he remembers dancing.

Looking back, Lee said coming back home was the hardest part of the ordeal.

"Rock bottom was actually when we got home here to this house and I was left with a husband who was tired, exhausted and in pain and cranky because he had to wear a helmet any time he got out of bed," she said. "And I had to be that Nurse Ratchet, saying, 'Is your helmet on? Put your helmet on.' And I still saw a man without a lot of words.'"

Bob became a man who kindergartners read books to because he couldn't put words together.

"That was rock bottom for me," she said. "I for the first time understood what an anxiety attack was -- when you wake up in the middle of the night and your heart is racing out of your chest and you think, 'I have four kids. How am I gonna do this? How am I going to put them through college? How am I going to take care of everybody? How am I going to take care of him?'"

On one of the dark days, she noticed something else. In the book, she writes, "down by my stomach ... a little bubble of flesh." It was a tumor.

"I was terrified and Bob was terrified and the tumor was discovered in just a routine ObGyn," she said. "I had pushed all my visits off because I was just so overwhelmed with Bob's situation. And it looked like it was probably 50/50. I bet the odds were worse, but I think the doctors could see the strain I was under and I never told Bob that. I didn't want him to worry."

When Lee found out it wasn't cancer, she said she felt so much relief, she fell apart a second time.

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