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Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries in War Time

In January 2006, Bob Woodruff, the newly minted co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight, was struck by a roadside bomb while aboard an Iraqi personnel carrier.

Woodruff had been sent to Iraq to file on the ground reports of the war in the lead-up to President Bush's State of the Union address.

The force of the explosion shattered Woodruff's skull, and he suffered severe damage to his brain. Woodruff's cameraman, Doug Vogt was also injured in the attack.

Initially, doctors at the National Naval Medical Center thought Woodruff's chances for recovery from traumatic brain injury were slim at best. Yet he defied expectations as his memory and vocabulary gradually returned.

To aid his recovery, Woodruff's wife and kids quizzed him on words and helped with his unusually speedy rehabilitation. Woodruff and his wife, Lee, have co-authored a book describing their family's struggle in the aftermath of the injury, titled In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing.

According to his doctors, Woodruff's unusually quick recovery is proof of how much remains unknown about the treatment and effects of traumatic brain injury, or TBI. In the coming years, many more soldiers and Marines with TBI are expected to enter the medical systems of the military and Veterans Affairs. Often, these injuries are hard to diagnose, and while some facilities have pioneered treatment for TBI, many others do not have as much experience or specialized training.

Bob Woodruff, former co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight; co-author, In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing

Rear Admiral Adam Robinson, Rear Admiral, Medical Corps, U. S. Navy; Commander, National Naval Medical Center; Chief, Navy Medical Corps

Commander Jim Dunne, Commander, U.S. Navy; head of the National Naval Medical Center's Trauma Unit

Maria Mouratidis, head of the Traumatic Stress and Brain Injury Program at the National Naval Medical Center; trained neuropsychologist

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.