"We kept expecting him to wake up. And for weeks and weeks, he didn't," said Dave Woodruff about his younger brother and ABC News anchor, Bob Woodruff.
Bob had lain unconscious for 36 days since he was injured by an IED -- improvised explosive device, or roadside bomb -- in Iraq on Jan. 27, 2006.
Family, friends and colleagues waited anxiously as Bob underwent surgery after surgery, first in Iraq and Germany and then -- within days -- at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Bob's doctors said he'd come close to death three separate times -- during the IED blast, during a dangerous surgery to remove a rock lodged near the carotid artery, and during his battle against pneumonia and sepsis.
Watching and Waiting
Every day, Bethesda doctors offer military families encouragement and the best possible medical care. They gave no less to our ABC journalists.
Doug Vogt, Bob's cameraman, was also brain injured in the attack but was ahead of Bob in recovery. Vogt came to visit Bob when he was in the coma.
"Seeing Bob then was more scary than seeing him inside the APC [Armored Personnel Carrier] bleeding, where I was afraid he would bleed to death," Vogt said.
None of the medical staff could tell the family when or if Bob would wake up. Even if he woke up, there was no way to know what his abilities or personality would be.
"There were good things, there were bad things and there were huge, huge question marks," said Lee Woodruff, Bob's wife.
During those five weeks, Bob showed occasional signs of life.
He struggled to get out of his bed -- even breaking its plastic edge -- and doctors speculated he might be reliving the accident in his mind. The family often had to push an agitated Bob back into bed so that he would not harm himself.
At one point Bob puckered up when his wife asked for a kiss. Doctors celebrated a small victory -- Bob had bilateral control of his face. That would be necessary for Bob to speak again.
A Surprising Greeting
Toward the end, Bob did speak while still unconscious. He uttered the word "water." At another point, doctors thought Bob was babbling until they realized he was speaking Chinese -- one of several languages he spoke before the attack.
The family did its best to connect with the unconscious Bob -- with words, music and touch. Family members decorated his hospital room with photographs of his children and drawings mailed to Bob from schoolchildren around the country.
But the coma was dragging on longer than anyone expected. "At that point, I think I was beginning to lose a little bit of hope," Lee recalled.
On a Monday morning in March, Lee pulled back the curtain of Bob's room and -- for the first time in a good while -- saw her husband wide awake. Bob was sitting up in bed with eyes bright. He turned to his wife and said, "Sweetie, where have you been?"
Bob and Lee Woodruff have established a fund to assist members of the military who are suffering from brain injuries. To learn more, click here: Bob Woodruff Family Fund.