8.23.2007

Bob Woodruff is my hero



Last week while we were at Topsail Beach, I was able to finish one book I've been reading this summer called, "In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing" by Bob and Lee Woodruff. I started reading the book slowly back in Apex, but since I don't usually have tons of time to devote to reading, I wasn't able to really get far until we were at the beach with nothing to do (thankfully). I was so touched by this book and was able to connect with Bob and Lee in a scary too-close-to-home type of way. Here are my thoughts on why I can't stop thinking about this couple.

As many of you (all 3 of you reading this blog) know, my dad suffered an irreversible anoxic brain injury in 2002 following open-heart surgery at the infamous life-shattering-never-take-your-family-members-there Duke University Medical Center. In my dad's case, the damage was to all parts of his brain and he lost a lot of his motor functions, speech, executive functions, you name it...he's not really got it anymore. He requires someone to be with him 24-7 which has put a huge and permanent strain on our family, but mostly my poor mom. Not really knowing what exactly had happened to Bob Woodruff, but curious nonetheless, I randomly decided to buy their book a few months ago. I had no idea how similar their story would be to that of my family's.

Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after an IED exploded near the tank he was riding in and happened to be standing up in at the time of the explosion. He was critically injured and eventually had part of his skull removed to allow the brain to swell. This removal saved his life. Of course, the majority of the story about his ordeal was told from Lee's perspective and so much of her struggles, thoughts, emotions, etc. reminded me of my mom to a T. It was crazy. Even descriptions of Bob's behavior (pulling at a feeding tube, trache tube, lashing out a doctors and nurses, having a far away look in his eyes, being in a coma, and the list goes on) were identical to what we watched my dad go through. The only comfort this list of things brings is the knowledge that the people do not remember a bit of it! What a blessing!

I cried many times while reading this book and each time I'd close it for a break I'd say, "I want my mom to read this book." Even though at a point, Bob's recovery and responses are far and away from what my dad has experienced, it was still oddly comforting to read their story and remember what happened to my dad and be able to connect through such an awful ordeal. I have this insane drive to talk to the Woodruffs, meet them, have my mom talk to them, and just compare notes. I don't know why I feel so driven to do these things, but if I had to guess, it's because on some level I think I see Bob as my dad had he recovered. Bob talks, walks, sounds like his old self, but that's because he was hit on the left side of his head and not the right. The right would've shown more physical effects, whereas the left side will show in speech and language.

Bob's recovery is amazing and I've seen many videos of interviews, just after he woke up, and from the "To Iraq and Back" segment he was a part of. It's just nuts, but I feel like he's my dad in a way and it's like a way I can have my old dad back even if he looks and sounds different. I think I'm probably pretending in my heart somewhere that Bob is what my dad could've been had this all not happened.

God bless the Woodruffs! I highly recommend their book! Here's a link to The Bob Woodruff Family Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury. There are great video clips on this site as well.

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