Three years ago, Lee Woodruff was living the dream: a house in the suburbs, a successful career, four great kids and one terrific husband. But all that changed on Jan. 29, 2006, when her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, was hit by shrapnel from a roadside bomb while reporting from Iraq. He suffered a nearly fatal traumatic brain injury.
“I never envisioned all this,” says Woodruff. “Before Bob got hurt, I was just an ordinary person.”
Now she is a traveling mom who was written two books, the first of which spent four week atop the New York Times bestseller list. She balances her busy career, raising money for a foundation she started to help military members who suffer traumatic brain injuries and traveling with raising her four kids, two teenagers (18 and 15) and 9-year-old twins.
Woodruff’s first experience as a traveling mom involved hotels and hospitals. her husband spent five weeks in a medically induced coma at Bethesda Naval Hospital. She wanted to stay by his side, but she had four children at home in Westchester, N.Y., in need of normalcy.
“Bob needed me to be there,” says Woodruff. “And the kids needed their regular routine. So I was forced to abdicate all parenting responsibilities to a wonderful network of supporters back in Westchester. It’s amazing – you really find out who your friends are in situations like this.”
Woodruff lived in a Washington D.C. hotel room for the duration of her husband’s coma; the kids visited almost every weekend. She returned only once — for her twins’ kindergarten play. The trip stirred her emotions.
“It was hard walking into the house for the first time,” says Woodruff. “Everything was altered. When last I’d been there, our home had been a happy place. I couldn’t help thinking about what it would look like now. Would there be a father? And if there was, would he ever be the same?”
Woodruff employed several coping mechanisms to help ease her anxiety.
“I tried hard to make the hotel room feel like home,” she says. “I had bubble bath and fresh flowers, and of course my face cream. It’s this really expensive stuff that I just love, and knowing I could put it on at night – that there was at least one thing in my life I could still control – was a comfort.”