Bob Woodruff: Turning Personal Injury Into Public Inquiry


Waking Up and Learning to Speak

With the aid of candid, never-seen-before family videos shot in part by his brothers, "To Iraq and Back" explores Woodruff's treatment for traumatic brain injury at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. The center has cared for more than 2,000 injured soldiers since the start of the Iraq campaign in 2003, according to hospital officials.

One of Woodruff's doctors at Bethesda, Cmdr. James Dunn, chief of trauma, describes the severity of Woodruff's injuries on a family video.

"If you look at the brain injuries we have at Bethesda," he says, "his was on the high end of being severe."

Lee Woodruff and other family members recount what it was like to sit in the hospital each day as Woodruff remained in a medically induced coma. She recalls how doctors could provide only vague information about her husband's condition; huge questions about his short- and long-term prognosis lingered and weighed on the family as the days turned to weeks.

Finally, after nearly five weeks, Woodruff wakes. Lee Woodruff recounts the moment she first saw her husband up and alert: "I walked in to his room," she says, "and I parted the curtains and Bob was sitting up in bed and he turned to me and he just said, 'Sweetie, where have you been?'"

Woodruff today told reporters that when he regained consciousness his first question was to ask how Vogt was doing, as he felt extreme guilt for bringing his crew to the dangerous region outside Baghdad.

In April, after three weeks of intense rehabilitation, Woodruff was finally able to move home to New York, where his recovery continued. In one scene, the journalist is seen relearning words by studying flash cards with his three young daughters as they help him negotiate words like "belt buckle."

Soon, Bob and Lee Woodruff returned to the Bethesda center, where they personally thanked the medical staff and began to film the experience for the project.

There, doctors and nurses marvel at Woodruff's amazing recovery. "I've seen probably less than five [people] that have actually been able to walk back into the ICU and thank us for what we did," says nurse Alison Bishoff. "So, to me, he's a miracle. His recovery was a miracle."

The doctors and nurses are seen hugging Woodruff as he begins to learn more about the condition he was in at Bethesda. He said today that learning what his family endured during that time was the hardest part of this past year, and that watching the documentary brings up a lot of emotion.

"It's difficult for me, there's no question about it," Woodruff said today. "There's been a lot of tears."

He went on to say that he nearly died several times in the first weeks after the attack, and as he began his recovery he could not lift his left arm due to a shoulder injury. He's now regained enough movement to play tennis, has been skiing with his son, adding that his wife requests he not play basketball or soccer.

Woodruff's rehabilitation continues at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York roughly once a week, and he says that his recovery may never end. He occasionally struggles to find words, and says that while regaining 100 percent of his abilities is unlikely, he jokes that if he could be somewhere in the 90s "that would be pretty damn good."

The Human Cost of War

Later in Tuesday night's hour, Woodruff returns to Bethesda once again -- this time in a more-familiar role: that of a journalist.

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