Lee and Bob Woodruff were a poster couple for success. However, "in an instant" they became a terrified, grieving wife and a mortally wounded man whose gripping story was played out in a fishbowl of headlines and public sympathy.
Lee was a powerful public relations executive married to a news anchor who had risen in the competitive world of broadcast journalism like a shooting star. His career sometimes put a strain on their marriage, separating him many times and for long periods from Lee and their four children. But the couple's love was durable and overcame a number of obstacles. In his biggest leap up the ladder of achievement, Bob was named co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight" with Elizabeth Vargas in December 2005, replacing Peter Jennings.
Bob's star fell and nearly burned out when he was embedded with troops in Iraq barely a month later. His armored vehicle was hit by a nearby improvised explosive device (IED), and he and a cameraman were injured. Bob's head was bwoodruffed by hundreds of rocks of various sizes that broke his skull like a melon, and one large rock lodged in his throat. At the moment of impact, Bob was blessed with a vision of white light and a sense of pervading peace. But soon afterwards he awoke, aware of spitting blood and feeling someone touching his head. He recalled being relieved when he learned that the cameraman was fine.
Then followed the slow and agonizing healing process. IN AN INSTANT is written in tandem by Bob and Lee. We learn that being at the bedside and in the waiting room can be as painful as lying on the operating table. Lee describes feeling grateful that she loved her husband, and praying and working for his recovery. As anyone knows who has ever dealt with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), it's excruciating to watch someone who used to be intelligent and on top of his/her game struggling to remember the word for "bird" or "lettuce." Bob talks about how simple words would float by, but he just couldn't catch them. He had to learn how to speak again, and his balance was affected by the loss of that large section of cranium.
Lee and Bob know how lucky they are. They had many allies and advantages to speed Bob's recuperation. He had cranial reconstruction and every necessary therapy. Above all, he had a caring wife who oversaw his treatments --- though she was often in a private hell of worry.
Seeing soldiers with injuries similar to his own has made Bob crucially aware of how much he has regained and how great the loss can be when the brain is affected. Bob has improved sufficiently so that he now feels like a father and husband again. Though his career is still an open question, he participated in producing a documentary called "To Iraq and Back," which highlights his extraordinary journey and the suffering of soldiers with TBI.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on March 1, 2007