In 2006, Bob Woodruff was a star in the field of news reporting. He had just earned the position of anchor of ABC’s renowned news show World News Tonight. Being a diligent journalist, in January 2006, he traveled to Iraq to report on the ongoing war. Then the unforeseeable happened: He and cameraman Doug Vogt stepped on a roadside bomb that then exploded. The two men were immediately taken to the U.S. Air Force hospital south of Balad where Woodruff had head surgery to remove the most severely damaged parts of his skull. Following his time in Iraq, Woodruff was transferred briefly to Germany, then to America. In a hospital in Maryland, Woodruff was put in a medically induced coma for 36 days and finally, in March 2006, was transferred to a hospital in his hometown of Westchester, New York.
After this incident, Woodruff took a break from news reporting to recover and then in 2007 returned. However, like many of those with TBI, he went back to his “old life” too quickly. He was not successful in news reporting, forgetting words and similar things that happen to those who suffer a brain injury. (Personally, I don’t think Woodruff was wrong for trying to go back on air when he first did. He remembered what he loved to do and pursued it. If he hadn’t done this, it would have haunted him forever and, more importantly, he wouldn’t have known what he had to improve before he could return to the air again.) However, in time, he was able to return to work as a journalist and, “since then, he has reported from around the globe on a variety of subjects for the [ABC] network.”
It’s good to remember that, with every brain injury, there is something positive that comes out, whether it be one thing or many, whether it be in business, family, etc. For Woodruff and his wife, Lee, their personal experience with brain injury allowed then to understand some of the struggles that veterans with TBI, PTSD and other neurological injuries face, leading them to found a nonprofit focused on veterans and brain injury, the Bob Woodruff Foundation. The mission of this foundation is to “stand up for heroes so that we can find, fund, and shape innovative programs that help our impacted veterans, service members and their families thrive.” The more than $30 million donated to the Foundation has been used to fund education and employment, rehabilitation and recovery and quality of life.
In January 2016, Woodruff sent a letter to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. To date, the only candidate that has responded to this letter is Clinton. For Mr. Trump, the lack of response is particularly surprising, as he often talks about how America needs to rebuild the military and says the VA is “absolutely unacceptable”. As an American and a brain injury survivor, I am quite interested in the responses of Trump and Sanders to Woodruff’s questions.