To Limbaugh and Back – Bob Woodruff’s Journey

On Limbaugh’™s show, Kathy from Levonia, Mi. made an assumption, before Bob Woodruff’™s special even aired on ABC, that the show was only about the blow dried anchorman / ABC ‘œpretty boy’. And because of her call, and subsequent exchanges, I’™ll bet that Kathy (and many Limbaugh listeners) didn’™t watch the show. She and Rush were heartbreakingly wrong. So, what else is new?


Bob WoodruffAs I was drifting off to sleep last night, I was flipping channels and stopped on a late night repeat of the ABC News piece, From Iraq and Back. I ended up staying awake for more than another hour.

Early press releases billed the show as a documentary about ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff’™s journey back from his near-death experience in Iraq last year, and his (and the Woodruff family’™s) ongoing recovery from his traumatic brain injury.

The first 20 minutes was almost painful to watch. There was a little background, and some footage from just prior to the IED attack that injured both Woodruff and his cameraman. A few minutes were devoted to the acute care that he received immediately after the attack, his evacuation to Germany, and subsequent trip back to the Bethesda Naval Hospital in the U.S. There were no shots of Woodruff prior to the time he woke up in Bethesda, but the home videos of his awakening were almost shocking – here was a guy, missing half of his skull, who was up in bed speaking to his wife and family members. The man in the bed did not look anything like the previously anchor-haired Woodruff. Frankly, he looked rather freakish with half his head missing.

Woodruff’™s continuing journey back from TBI was not unlike that of many, many GI’™s returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, as it was pointed out several times in the show, TBI is the ‘œsignature’ injury of the ongoing conflicts. And were it not for advances in neurosurgery science, the death toll in the Bush regime’™s misadventures in Iraq would be much, much higher than it actually is.

But before I continue commenting on From Iraq and Back , I want to momentarily divert toward an exchange on Rush Limbaugh’™s daily hatefest yesterday, prior to the airing of the ABC show:

KATHY FROM LEVONIA, MI.: Well, thanks for taking my call. I was calling because I wanted to comment on the Bob Woodruff piece on ABC tonight. I just thought it was a perfect example of the liberal media thinking they’™re the heroes of the war instead of the soldiers who put themselves in harm’™s way every day.

RUSH: You know, there’™s a grain of truth in what you say. You gotta be very careful here because nobody is unhappy that Bob Woodruff is recovering from his injuries. Everybody is happy about that. But we do not get stories of valor in the Drive-By Media about soldiers. We do not get too many profiles of the seriously injured and their recovery and the great strides they make. We get some of that, but normally what we get is how there are rats running around the hospitals, it’™s Bush’™s fault, Bush doesn’™t care. There is some sympathy for these people, but never valor. But there is valor for injured journalists and their quest to return to normal and the hard work they put in during rehabilitation. It is constantly chronicled and we are asked to have all this great respect and so forth, which, nobody is denying the return to good health of Bob Woodruff. But it is interesting that this kind of reporting does not make it and is not common with injured US servicemen.

Kathy from Levonia, Mi. was allowed on Rush’™s daily hatefest for one reason: she was intent on doing one of Limbaugh’™s favorite things – bashing the ‘œliberal media’. She made the assumption, before the show even aired, that the show was only about the blow dried anchorman / ABC ‘œpretty boy’. And because of her call, and subsequent exchanges, I’™ll bet that Kathy (and many Limbaugh listeners) didn’™t watch the show. She and Rush were dead wrong.

The first part of the show was about Woodruff, but it was done in the context of showing what not only he, but many returning vets, are experiencing. The last 40 minutes of the show was completely about vets returning with TBI, and the experiences of they and their families. It was sad in the extreme.

Woodruff was lucky, in some respects. After he left Bethesda Naval Medical Center, there’™s no doubt in my mind that he received the best care that money could buy, including reconstructive and restorative surgery and physical and mental rehabilitation therapy. Whatever needs that Bob Woodruff may have for the rest of his life in dealing with the issues he faces, we can be sure that he’™ll be given the care he needs – the absolutely best care.

As the show progressed, it was clear that Woodruff had significantly progressed, both physically and mentally. While he needed to relearn many, many of life’™s simple tasks (just the exchange with his kids as he tried to relearn speaking the phrase ‘œbelt buckle’ was moving), he has, thankfully, improved significantly. In the early videos, he was literally missing half of his skull. In later footage, and the interviews he was conducting, it’™s apparent that he has undergone reconstructive surgery on his face and head – the anchorman looks are back.

That’™s not the case with the GI’™s. They’™re getting treatment from the Veteran’™s Administration healthcare system – and they’™re being stabilized in one of four centers across the U.S., then entered into local treatment systems that are (to say the least) lacking. Reconstructive surgery seems to consist of merely sewing loose and missing parts back into place. Rehabilitation services outside of the four VA chronic care centers are limited. Patients were shown backsliding after being released to local VA hospitals and outpatient facilities.

If Kathy from Levonia and Rush had bothered to watch the last 40 minutes of the 60 minute show, they would have understood that the show was all about the returning vets – and Woodruff’™s specific empathy with the GI’™s (and their families) who have been devastated by these injuries. I profiled one of these GI’™s in an earlier article on ASZ.

Bob Woodruff enjoys celebrity-level support from his family, his employer, and the private medical establishment. Like I said, the best that money can buy. Even still, it’™s hard to believe that he’™s come so far so quickly, though I’™m certain that he has many miles yet to travel and obstacles to overcome – perhaps for the rest of his life.

The military vets and families that are impacted are not so lucky to have the million dollar support system that is at the disposal of a news network anchorman. These vets and their loved ones are struggling to receive scraps from a medical system that is overloaded and overwhelmed.

As a vet myself, I thank ABC and Bob Woodruff for becoming the face of (and an advocate for) wounded vets returning with TBI. I also thank the Washington Post for revealing the discouraging warehousing of wounded vets at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

As a nation, we simply can’™t allow this to continue. With a short 60 minute return to broadcast television, Bob Woodruff has (or will), become as much of a ‘œface’ for Traumatic Brain Injury as is Michael J. Fox for Parkinson’™s Disease. And that’™s a good thing – because the Bush regime has done their level best to hide the national shame of the tens of thousands of severely wounded men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, they’™ve been pretty successful. We can hope that shows like From Iraq and Back will finally begin to draw back the curtain on these issues.

One last word for Kathy from Levonia, Mi. – don’™t be so quick to jump to conclusions next time. You might be amazed what happens when you open your mind and quit drinking Rush’™s koolaid. You might actually learn something, and become as outraged as the rest of us have been for quite some time.

Update: The GOP-controlled Senate at work in 2006:

Motion to Table Durbin Amdt. No. 4781 As Modified; To appropriate, with an offset, an additional $2,000,000 for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, Army for the improvement of imaging for traumatic brain injuries

On the Motion to Table


Senate Roll Call No. 222

109th Congress, 2nd Session

Agreed to: 54-43

If you missed Woodruff’™s documentary, you can view ‘œFrom Iraq and Back’ on ABC’™s website.

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

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