In a pitch perfect blog titled "Let the Giffords Heal in Private" Lee Woodruff -- wife of ABC's Bob Woodruff, who also suffered a traumatic brain injury while covering the war in Iraq -- movingly details the complexities of a very public injury and how the attending anger, grief and critical need for privacy impact the family.
Daily predictions on odds, prognoses and possible outcomes provide scattershot relief for the general public and even reports of encouraging response and movement really don't help the inner circle of the patient, the doctors and the family and Woodruff suggests they ignore it altogether.
"It's really not for any of us to speculate -- in our situation it was so dire so early on that we carefully parsed everything," she told me, "We were so aware that everyone loves to hear a positive story and good news with so many people pulling for you at times we stretched the truth -- everyone wants to feel their prayers have worked."
Other striking and hopeful similarities between Giffords and Woodruff include the speed (within 37 minutes for Giffords, 47 for Woodruff) of critical medical procedures to reduce swelling and the truly excellent brains that received the life-threatening wounds in the first place.
"Our doctors told us he's a brilliant guy and used a lot of his neurological capabilities and it helped his chances to come back," she said, "And this woman is so bright and intelligent and firing on so many cylinders."
She cautions, however, that it's a long, long walk. "Our expectations went from having Bob be able to go live on television with a photographic memory and deliver a half hour news broadcast to the new hopes that he would remember he's the father of twins," she recalls, "family members have to adjust the calibration of expectations early on."
She recalled an interaction near the start of her husband's recovery when a well-meaning friend gave her videos of Bob's favorite Coen Brothers movies to watch from his hospital bed. "I thought to myself 'are you kidding me?' she says, "He's in a coma, I don't think he's quite ready for sarcasm and irony."
Five years later Bob Woodruff is a full time news correspondent at ABC and reports from all over the world. "He's still that guy - our good news is that he's gone on and done tons of stories... and when times like this call for trotting out the brain injury guy again, well, we feel it's our responsibility to be honest and public with injuries that still can seem shameful and stigmatized. We're happy to there."
But brain injuries, unlike other wounds to the body, create change and loss unlike any other.
"Look, everyone says he's great, he's awesome, and if I didn't know him before I wouldn't know better, but as the wife who is next to him every night there are the tiniest things I grieve that are lost and no one else would miss... sometimes I attribute it to my own PTSD, that I can't let go, that I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's just different. There is an anger part to this... I didn't ask anybody to tinker with him."
Mostly Lee Woodruff wishes respect and privacy for Rep. Giffords and her family right now. A collective backing off while time and medicine do their best.
"I woke up feeling really blue today," she said, "It didn't hit me the first day but now it's just the volume of the coverage and remembering how I was so in my own world 5 years ago while this bizarre talk about outcomes and chances were taking place. It's just feels sort of wrong that we are living this for these people."
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