'We're in a Good Place'
By all accounts, Bob Woodruff is back. Yes, he’ll stumble over a word here and there, but more than three years after the ABC newsman was almost killed in Iraq by a bomb that left him in a coma for 36 days, he’s landing big interviews, hosting a weekly TV show and zigzagging through traffic during his commute. If anyone is still haunted by the early, heart-wrenching days of Bob’s recovery, it’s his wife, Lee. Even now, when Bob, 47, does a live broadcast or sits down to do an interview with, say, Sen. John Edwards, Lee cringes behind laced fingers, hoping her husband can keep his words straight. “There are times when I suffer from my own posttraumatic stress,” says Lee, 48, sitting in their Rye, N.Y., home. “I still see the person lying in a coma. I have to remind myself he’s okay.”
Lee shares that struggle in her new memoir, Perfectly Imperfect. For months after Bob’s injury, Lee feared that the man she fell in love with could be lost forever. “There were mornings when I thought it would be better to lie down and sleep for a thousand years,” writes Lee, a freelance writer and Good Morning America contributor. “But I wouldn’t allow myself to give in completely.” Even as friends saw improvement as Bob went through months of rehab and had his skull rebuilt with an acrylic implant, Lee remained unsure. “She would pepper me with questions after get-togethers: ‘How did Bob seem to you? Do you think he will ever be the same again?'” says good friend Melanie Bloom, widow of NBC correspondent David Bloom, who died covering the war. “She couldn’t see [his improvement]. She was too close to it.”
Today, finally, life is very much back to normal in the Woodruff household. Lee gets Mack, 17, and Cathryn, 15, out the door each morning while making sure twins Nora and Claire, 9, eat breakfast. Bob walks the twins across the street to school and, at night, helps with homework—a role reversal from three years ago. “The days of my kindergartners teaching me English are largely gone,” says Bob. “But they do sometimes laugh at me, like when I say ‘Web site’ instead of ‘wet suit.'”
Bob has not only returned to work, he’s back doing the in-depth reporting that won him enough acclaim to be named anchor of ABC’s World News a month before his injury. In the last year he’s scored exclusives with Edwards and Michelle Obama, and is anchoring Focus Earth with Bob Woodruff on Planet Green. Even he is sometimes amazed by how far he’s come. “Three years ago, the thought of doing an interview was not really one I would have considered possible,” he says. Yet there are moments he mourns what he lost, including his nightly anchoring gig. “There are times when I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet,” he says. “On other days I feel frustrated, I feel saddened, I feel pity for myself, but this is rare.”
One thing is certain: Bob and Lee are closer than ever. She plops on the couch beside him and he grabs her feet and starts rubbing them. “I’m really lucky,” says Lee. “I’m at peace with where we are.”