Every so often, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff feels a rock "emerge" from his
face “like a zit," he says. But it's not a pimple; it's a not-so-subtle
reminder of what he has been through over the past four years.
On Jan. 29, 2006, a mere 27 days after he was tapped to succeed Peter
Jennings as the co-anchor of ABC World News Tonight, Woodruff was nearly killed
when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle while on assignment near Taji,
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The details of the attack are still murky, but an improvised explosive
device (IED) waylaid his convoy. Woodruff was wearing body armor and was in a
tank, but his head, neck, and shoulders were exposed during the blast. The
blast knocked Woodruff unconscious as rocks and metal pierced his face, jaw,
and neck. Woodruff's cameraman, Doug Vogt, and an Iraqi soldier were also
"How I survived, we still don’t know to this day," Woodruff said in a speech
this month in San Diego at the American Academy of Facial Plastic and
Reconstructive Surgery's annual meeting. The audience included the surgeon who
rebuilt his face after the attack.
Road to Recovery
Right after the blast, no one thought Woodruff would survive. A medic
told his wife, Lee, that a piece of paper that read "expected" was pinned to
his chest. "I was expected to die," Woodruff says. When he survived, no one
thought he would be able to work again -- especially as a broadcast
But Woodruff returned to the air 13 months after getting injured, telling
his story in a documentary called To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff
Reports. "I was nervous my first time back in front of the camera, and
people were astounded that I was back at all," Woodruff says.
The journey back was not easy. Immediately after the attack, Woodruff was
placed in a medically induced coma for 36 days so his brain could rest and
Upon waking up, "I could not remember my family members' names," Woodruff
recalls. "I remembered [my wife] Lee and two of my kids. I could not remember
my twins' names. I did not even remember having twins."
After that came multiple surgeries -- about nine, Woodruff estimates. His
operations included the removal of part of his skull to relieve the pressure on
his brain. Before going to Iraq, "I never had surgery other than dental surgery
and a lot of stitches as a result of being raised with brothers," he tells
Woodruff’s physical skills came back relatively quickly, but it took an
intense cognitive rehabilitation program to regain some of the skills he had
lost and relearn everything -- including the names of his then 5-year-old
twins. "It took long-term rehabilitation to be able to live again and be back
in their lives," Woodruff says.
Woodruff also suffered from aphasia, the inability to find words. Aphasia is
caused by damage to one or more brain areas that handle language. "I couldn’t
come up with words and I didn’t have a lot of synonyms," he says. "It was
The effects of his injury are still apparent. Woodruff occasionally has
difficulty finding words or synonyms. He is blind in the upper quarter of both
of eyes, and he has lost 30% of his hearing in one ear and 10% in the other