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Woodruffs’ journey inspiring

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IN AN INSTANT: A FAMILY'S JOURNEY OF LOVE AND HEALING, by Lee and Bob Woodruff, Random House, 288 pages, $25.95

It happened before CBS News named Katie Couric as the first solo woman to anchor a network-news broadcast.

Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas were named co-anchors of ABC's World News, to replace Peter Jennings. It wasn't a first, really, since Harry Reasoner had been paired with Barbara Walters many years earlier, in an uneasy relationship that didn't last, also at ABC.

One month after the announcement, Woodruff went to Iraq to be imbedded with the military, and he suffered a traumatic brain injury when an improvised explosive device went off near the tank in which he was riding. It appeared miraculous that he wasn't killed, but it would take a year for him to recover.

In the meantime, Vargas anchored alone, and when she took a break to have a baby, her anchor job flew out the window. Charlie Gibson, longtime co-anchor of "Good Morning America," inherited the job — as a single anchor in the Jennings tradition.

It was hard to tell how seriously Woodruff was hurt — until last month, when he turned up triumphally with his wife, Lee, on "Good Morning America," "Oprah" and a number of other shows.

Now comes the book, "In an Instant," apparently co-written by the Woodruffs, describing in easy conversational style Woodruff's various surgeries and the therapy that included Woodruff's kids helping him relearn many basic words as his brain started to gear up again.

It appears that Woodruff is doing very well indeed, even though he still needs help with an occasional word or two. It's a very touching story, and the Woodruffs come off as a wholesome, handsome couple — especially since Lee stuck by him with such intensity and humor.

Lee was encouraged early on when doctors told her that Bob would have an advantage many people didn't have — increased neurons emanating from his experience in law, learning multiple languages, accelerated intellectual curiosity and superior brain power. Hopefully, this would help him regain his brain facility.

She was still scared, but her personality and natural energy were on overload. And she rekindled their romance, as she passed her own optimism on to him.

This book is one that may help other people with serious problems deal with their own. They retell their original love story, Bob's decision to leave law and go into journalism and the process of building a family.

Considering that Gibson is in his 60s and probably won't keep the anchor position for many more years, the exciting, positive publicity of Woodruff's return could put him back on track to get his old job back.

E-mail: dennis@desnews.com