The anchor, nearly killed in Iraq, talks to PEOPLE about his incredible recovery
A little more than a year after a roadside bomb in Iraq nearly killed him, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff has returned to talk about his experience – appearing this week on Good Morning America and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He and wife Lee also have documented the incredible recovery in a new book, In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing, excerpted in the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Lee Woodruff, who spent weeks waiting for her husband to awake from a medically-induced coma, and then months by his side caring for him, says she’s still amazed by how far he has come since the attack on January 29, 2006.
“Almost every night, I just look at him, and I can’t believe it,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m so grateful he is here.”
Just before his return to the public eye, Woodruff gathered with his family at the kitchen table of their Rye, N.Y., home, inspecting the hand-drawn Valentine cards his 6-year-old daughters gave him. Then he kissed his wife and hugged twins Nora and Claire and their siblings Mack, 15, and Cathryn, 13. “Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!” he said.
What a difference a year makes. “This Valentine’s Day is much more meaningful,” Lee, 46, says with a rueful laugh, “having spent last year talking to Bob’s comatose body.”
Knowing all too well how close he came to dying, Bob notes the marble-sized rock once lodged against a carotid artery leading to his brain. “Had that rock traveled one more millimeter,” he says, “I would have been dead. It’s a miracle I’m alive.”
“The doctors are shocked by Bob,” says Lee of her husband’s recovery. “He’s blasted through most of the textbooks.” Though he still struggles for words at times, and occasionally mixes up his syntax – describing lingering numbness in his face as “lack of feel,” – Bob volunteers, “I have nothing to hide. I’ve got problems. People with traumatic brain injuries have issues. Mine is largely about (recall of) names and words.”
ABC News President David Westin is so impressed by Bob’s progress he predicts Woodruff will return to an anchor chair someday, an idea that gives the injured journalist some pause.
“The question is ‘Would somebody watch an anchor who every once in a while can’t come across with a certain word? Would that be accepted or not accepted by people?’ I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe after a certain period of time, people would be tired of it. Or the other possibility is that those words and everything will continue to come back the way they are now.”
In the meantime, the Woodruffs are celebrating what’s truly important. Sitting at the dinner table with their kids on February 14, Lee noted, “We tipped our glasses to love. ”
For more from the Woodruffs’ story, and an excerpt from their book, pick up the latest PEOPLE.