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In An Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing    by Lee Woodruff & Bob Woodruff order for
In An Instant
by Lee Woodruff
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

On January 28, 2006, shortly after being promoted to co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight, Bob Woodruff was injured by an IED while on assignment in Iraq. He suffered a devastating head injury, as well as a terrible wound to his back and numerous smaller facial and head wounds from the rocks that had been packed around the bomb. Part of his skull collapsed inward, leaving pieces of bone, dirt, and rocks lodged against his brain. Had he had such a terrible injury in the United States, he probably would not have survived, but the doctors at the field hospital to which he was taken were skilled in dealing with blast injuries. After he was stabilized, he was flown to the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for further treatment.

In An Instant begins with Lee Woodruff, Bob's wife, telling the story from her point of view, and continues by going back and forth between Lee's words and Bob's. Where Bob doesn't remember, Lee does a good job of filling in the details. When Lee first sees Bob in the hospital at Landstuhl, she realizes for the first time that not only was Bob extremely lucky to survive, but that there was still a strong possibility that he might die or be left incapacitated, possibly unable to speak, walk, or care for himself.

This is an amazing story of survival and love. We learn about the injury and how Bob recovers, and we also learn about how he got into the news business in the first place. Interwoven with facts about Bob's recovery is the story of how Lee and Bob met, and how the crisis affected his whole family. Especially interesting were significant historical events where Bob just happened to be present before he became a journalist, such as the Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing in 1989. Bob had been teaching at the Chinese University of Politics and Law when the student protest began, and he asked for a job as fixer with CBS news after being interviewed by them. His Chinese, while not fluent, was good enough that he could communicate, and he was hired to 'facilitate things for the news crews and reporters, translate, and keep his ears to the ground for news or rumors that might be part of a larger story.' He was right in the middle of things when the troops arrived to quell the protest. Being right in the middle of things describes his next few years as a journalist up to and including being embedded in Iraq.

Bob's experience after the IED explosion is interesting as a survival story, but it also provides an important lesson because of the sheer number of Americans who have been coming back from war zones with similar injuries since 2003. His recovery could be called miraculous, but there are many more head injury survivors who are left disabled for life, physically and/or mentally. Aside from its lessons, though, In An Instant reads like an absorbing novel. Even knowing about his injury beforehand doesn't detract from the compelling immediacy of the story. You want to know all the details and you might even stay up all night reading just to see what happens next.

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