High Altitude Society: Lee Woodruff speaks at Celebration of Life Luncheon | VailDaily.com

High Altitude Society: Lee Woodruff speaks at Celebration of Life Luncheon

Carolyn Pope
High Altitude Society

Life can change in an instant.

Although each and every one of us comprehends this phrase as truth, we are rarely prepared for something that crashes into our lives and rocks our world; for the better, or, as it is seems more likely, for the worse.

Lee Woodruff knows this personally; her husband, news reporter Bob Woodruff, had just started his job as anchor for ABC news, succeeding Peter Jennings in the end of 2005. On Jan. 29, 2006, Woodruff and Canadian cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously injured in an explosion from an improvised explosive device near Taji, Iraq, just 12 miles north of Baghdad. In that one second, his life changed, as did the lives of every member of his family.

Since that time, the Woodruff's founded The Bob Woodruff Foundation, which strives to ensure that all U.S. Military who are injured receive the same care that Bob received for traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Since its inception, the organization has invested more than $38 million in creating positive outcomes for more than 2.5 million veterans.

'The Journey'

Woodruff was the keynote speaker at the annual Celebration of Life Luncheon, the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group's premier event. Although her ties aren't to breast cancer, she held the audience in the palm of her hand as she shared the story of her family, her husband and her children, as they walked along a scree-filled trail from catastrophe to recovery.

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"Traumatic brain injury has a stigma," she told the audience. "I've heard the word 'retarded.' There's a belief that those with TBI are unable to work, unable to function. But each person is an individual."

The brain, she shared, is the most complicated organ. A tangled web of neurons, it's the computer for the whole body. Unlike other organs, like the heart where the diagnosis is quick, the brain morphs, evolves and is difficult to foresee what the future holds. Each case is individual.

"When you receive a diagnosis that is life changing, or life threatening, you drop to your knees," she shared. "The next part is the journey."

She stressed the importance of storytelling and sharing, which downplays stigma, and always offers hope. The doctors who treated Woodruff after his injuries were all in agreement; recovery was virtually impossible. If it weren't for the nurses and others who shared their stories during this crisis, hope was like a feather in the wind; there, but hard to catch.

Helping Locally

Since 1994, The Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group has played a critical role in bringing support to those diagnosed with breast cancer in Eagle County, which has raised over $1,000,000 to help those who have breast cancer.

Over 300 women have received Day to Play funds and another 30 have received more than $2,000 in assistance, and the organization donated $75,000 to the Sonnenalp Breast Diagnostic Imaging Center within the Shaw Regional Cancer Center and another $50,000 to Jack's Place. Another $50,000 assisted in the purchase of a PET Scanner and another $50,000 toward the purchase of a stereotactic table for the Shaw Center's radiation department.

The Gap Fund, established in 2012, provides $50,000 to the Breast Center for those who need additional diagnostic tests and assistance with the gap payment due to their deductible or insurance coverage.

Local Jen Shay praised the work of the Breast Cancer Awareness group.

"This lunch is a reminder. We live in a small community and we all know someone who has been diagnosed or is going through treatment," she said. "We all can help out."

For more information on the works of the Breast Cancer Awareness Group, visit http://www.vailbreastcancerawareness.org.