Forrest General Hospital

FALL 2014

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1 5 w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m FA L L 2 014 S P I R I T O F W O M E N For appearances, please contact Brenda Kane at Bob and Lee Woodruff and kids The Bob Woodruff Foundation For more information about the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which assists wounded service members and their families with more than $21 million invested to date, go to C ircles. Networks. Communities. These intertwined groups of family and friends who share your life are the most valuable resource you have when you're a caregiver, says author and "CBS This Morning" contributor Lee Woodruff. Eight years ago, Woodruff became a caregiver "in an instant," she says, when her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, suffered traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb while on assignment in Iraq. He spent many months recovering in medical facilities and at home, while Lee Woodruff managed the compet- ing demands of caring for both her husband and the couple's four young children. "I had an incredible group of people who stepped into the void [after Bob was injured]," says Woodruff, who with her husband has established the Bob Wood- ruff Foundation to help wounded service members and their families. But even though she knew her children were in good hands with family members, she still wor- ried about missing important time with them. "I had to keep remembering that 'You're just one mommy doing the very best you can.' … I would tuck my kids in at night and search their eyes, to see if they wanted to talk to me or anyone else [about what was going on with their father]," she says. "But my kids came through it all in incredible ways. Mostly they just wanted to know that someone was there [for them], and that they were loved." STRENGTH IN NUMBERS Because she's a type A person, Woodruff says she had a tendency to want to do everything herself, and she wishes she had asked others for help more often to avoid burning herself out at times. "The best piece of advice that I ever got was to sub- scribe to the 'chit' system," she says. "You give everyone one chit for later to do something helpful, maybe fix the water heater or take your kid to sports practice. It ennobled the person who had offered because they [knew they would get] to do something, and it made me not feel like the community beggar. It's a great way to organize [help] without having to know what you [might] need at that very moment." She also found that help sometimes came from unex- pected sources besides her family and close friends. "The people that you think will be your foundation help aren't necessarily the ones who come into the void," she says, adding that it's important to "let everyone into your circle that you can." BE NICE TO YOURSELF Woodruff says she decided right from the start, when her husband was in a coma for 36 days in a U.S. military hos- pital in Germany, that she needed to take care of herself too. "I was like a warrior when Bob was in a coma," she says. "I stopped any alcohol, ate super healthy, got off any kind of caffeine. I knew it would be an endurance test." Woodruff says she also learned not to look too far ahead during those early days when the future seemed so uncertain. "Your world just shrinks down to really bite- size pieces," she says. "I almost had to put blinders on. You don't try to go day by day because it's too much. [Sometimes] you just go hour by hour." Later, back at the family's home in suburban New York, she rejoined her early morning swim group at the local YMCA to get some exercise and help regain a sense of normalcy in her routine. "For that one hour a day I could unhinge my mind. I could cry underwater too," she says. It may sound counterintuitive, but taking time to appreci- ate life's little moments also helps ease the stress of long- term caregiving, says Woodruff. "I recalibrated that sense of joy. A great cup of coffee in the morning, watching the sun come up—these things become really important to fix on," she says. "It's the good part of the bad things." • PHOT Y CATHRINE WHITE

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