From the day Lee Woodruff was told the news that her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, had suffered a nearlyfatal traumatic brain injury, Woodruff turned her agony into prose. Woodruff’s real salvation was her writing.
“Everything that was happening day to day, everything I was feeling – I just poured it all into a journal,” she says. “It was my catharsis while sitting in the ICU.”
It was her husband’s neurosurgeon who first suggested that Woodruff turn the journal into a book.
“He told me that what was happening to Bob was happening to thousands of other military men and women all over the world, and that no one was talking about it,” says Woodruff. “That’s when I first started thinking of my journal as an eventual book.”
In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing was released in February 2008 to critical acclaim. Woodruff attributes the book’s success to its multifaceted themes.
“The book explores human commonalities,” says Woodruff. “True, it’s a story of one family, but it’s also a story about brain injury. And the military. And personal connections. And what it takes to be a caregiver.”
Unpredictability of Brain Injury
During the 18 months it took her husband to recover, Woodruff served as his primary caregiver.
“He woke up in the hospital after 36 days in a coma,” says Woodruff. “But it was another year and a half before we knew if Bob would ever really be Bob again.”
Bob has returned to work at ABC News. But in those stressful months following his injury, it was impossible to know whether her husband would ever again balance the checkbook, let alone return to his career as a television news anchor.
The “unpredictability of brain injury” weighed heavily on Lee.
“The not knowing was the worst part,” says Woodruff. “I had a hard time explaining to the kids what was going on with their dad because the truth was I didn’t really know. I’d done everything I could do – now I just had to wait.”
And caring for her husband was proving to be a challenge.
“It changes your relationship when one person is the constant caregiver,” says Woodruff. “Every day was about getting the kids to school and to all their activities while making sure Bob was getting to and from therapy. Sometimes, in the middle of all that I’d start wondering if this was what the rest of my life was going to be like.”
Woodruff’s life as a caregiver was mostly cut from her first book, but she explores it thoroughly in Perfectly Imperfect, released on April 21, 2009. The book details Woodruff’s decision to seek therapy and medication once she reached her own rock bottom.
“The medication didn’t eliminate the grief, but it sort of cushioned my fall,” says Woodruff. “But writing was a large part of my therapy as well. In fact, I wrote most of the second book while on the tour for In an Instant.”
The speaking tour which arose from Woodruff’s original book was something that she and her husband did together. While this was hard on the couple’s children, Woodruff felt it was important for their marriage.
“Ideally, we would have preferred to have at least one parent home at a time,” says Woodruff. “But this tour was a chance for Bob and I to reconnect, and that was something that we needed. So we just tried not to be gone for long stretches of time.”