Wife of Journalist Injured in Iraq Will Speak of Nurses' Role in Healing

March 5, 2010

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DALLAS -- When Lee Woodruff received the horrifying phone call that her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, had suffered a nearly fatal brain injury in an explosion in Iraq, she panicked and began weeping.

But then, she says, a "steely calm" set in -- a side of her that she refers to as "the General" in the book In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing, which she co-wrote with her husband.

"The General" helped her stay strong as she broke the news to her four young children and traveled to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, to be at the side of her husband, who had been embedded in the military when a roadside bomb went off near the tank in which he was riding.

But standing alongside "the General" and keeping her strong were nurses and doctors, she said.

Woodruff will talk about her experience -- and nurses' role in aiding families in crisis -- at a March 29 gala luncheon marking the centennial of Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing, which is on the campus of Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

The event, to be attended by Baylor President-elect Ken Starr and his wife, Alice Starr, will include recognition of Centennial Champions who have led Baylor University Medical Center and Baylor Health Care System over the years: the late Boone Powell Sr., Boone Powell Jr. and Joel T. Allison.

"Baylor nurses have played important roles in health care and society over the past 100 years, guided by highest ethical standards and a focus on missions and serving others across the globe," said Dr. Judith Wright Lott, dean of the Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing and professor of nursing.

During the Woodruff family's crisis, "nurses provided hope with reality," Woodruff said in a telephone interview. "More than the doctors, the nurses knew the family."

The family spoke to and touched Bob Woodruff, although he was unresponsive for weeks. But one day, when the Woodruffs' daughter Cathryn gave her father a kiss, Lee Woodruff watched with wonder as a tear rolled down her husband's face.

"I called for the nurse, not the doctor, because they were the ones who were there all through their shifts and would say when they saw a difference," she said.

In the book, Lee Woodruff wrote about her husband's incredible physical strength as he recovered. He became agitated as he tried to sit upright, even throwing some punches in his confusion as others tried to move him. Sometimes nurses had to use wrist restraints because of the possible danger if he fell and hurt his head.

"I didn't blame them," Lee Woodruff said in her book. "Caring for Bob when he was agitated was exhausting. It was like minding a toddler."

Weeks after extensive surgeries, as Bob Woodruff awakened and began his lengthy journey of recovery, a nurse's act of kindness held particular meaning for Lee Woodruff.

"When he was in rehab, Bob was OK and moving forward, but with a brain injury, progress is so slow," she said. "I walked into rehab one day and looked at the nurses and said, 'I wish somebody could tell me where this is going.'

"One of the nurses said to me, 'Has anybody asked how you are doing?' That caused me to burst into tears," Lee Woodruff said. "It was the nurse knowing we have to remember the families. That was all it took. I thought I was being so strong. I remember thinking, 'Oh, you angel.'"

At Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing, "the centennial celebrations have allowed us to honor those teachers, students and supporters who have helped make our school what it is today," Lott said. "The injury suffered by Mr. Woodruff has given Lee Woodruff first-hand experience with all aspects of healthcare, including the importance of excellent nurses."

CELEBRATING A CENTURY OF SERVICE

WHAT: Celebrating a Century of Service, a Gala Luncheon hosted by Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing..

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, March 29, 2010

WHERE: Atrium Entrance of Hilton Anatole's Stemmons Ballroom, 2201 Stemmons Freeway in Dallas.

COST: $100. Table sponsorships also are available, with tables seating 10. Sponsors will be invited to the VIP reception, will receive priority seating and will be listed as Centennial Partners on the Wall of Honor. Sponsorships are $10,000, platinum; $5,000, gold; and $2,500, silver.

RESERVATIONS: Monday, March 15, 2010. Space is limited. For online reservation, visit www.baylor.edu/nursing

PARKING: Valet, $16; self-parking, $7.

PROCEEDS: Net proceeds benefit the Louise Herrington School of Nursing Excellence Fund for student and program initiatives.

SPECIAL RECOGNITION: In addition to the three Centennial Champions, other honorees will be "Legends in the Line," including individuals, families, organizations, and businesses that have made a significant impact on the school's legacy through their leadership and commitment in educating nurses for service. The event will feature special greetings by Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF AYLOR UNIVERSITY LOUISE HERRINGTON SCHOOL OF NURSING

In the 100 years since the Louise Herrington School of Nursing opened, more than 5,300 graduates have gone on to pursue successful nursing careers around the world, with at least 500 graduates serving on the mission field.

Baylor's nursing school was established in 1909 as a diploma program within Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium in Dallas, which eventually became Baylor University Medical Center. The first classes of nursing students in Baylor's program worked in the sanitarium (that era's word for hospital), providing primary care for patients during their 12-hour shifts and attending classes during non-work hours.

In 1950, the School of Nursing became one of Baylor University's six degree-granting schools, with the first bachelor of science nursing degrees awarded in 1954. In November 1999, the School was renamed the Louise Herrington School of Nursing after Louise Herrington Ornelas, a 1992 Baylor University Alumna Honoris Causa, made a $13 million endowment gift to the school.

About Lee Woodruff:

Lee Woodruff and Bob Woodruff have appeared on national television and radio since the February 2007 publication of their book. They have helped call attention to the issue of traumatic brain injury among returning war veterans, as well as the millions of Americans who live with this often invisible, but life-changing affliction. They have founded the Bob Woodruff Foundation (ReMind.org) to assist wounded service members and their families receive the long-term care that they need and help them successfully reintegrate into their communities.

Lee Woodruff is a contributing editor for ABC's Good Morning America, reporting on a variety of home and family related topics. She recently published her second book, Perfectly Imperfect - A Life in Progress.

A freelance writer, Woodruff has penned numerous personal articles about her family and parenting that have run in such high-profile magazines as Health, Redbook, Country Living, Parade and Family Fun.

In addition to freelance writing, Woodruff ran her own public relations and marketing consulting business for 16 years. Before that, she was senior vice president of the public relations firm Porter Novelli.

The Woodruffs live in Westchester County, New York, with their four children.

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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