ABC team recovers slowly in Germany
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 30, 2006 at 11:23 p.m.
The ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and a cameraman, Doug Vogt, who were badly wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq, are responding slowly to treatment, officials at a U.S. military hospital in Germany where they are being treated said Monday.
"Doctors have had good early signs of reaction, signs of slow improvement," said a hospital spokeswoman, Marie Shaw.
Woodruff's brother, David, who visited him on Monday, said his condition had improved since he and Vogt were flown from a military field hospital in Iraq to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center here.
"He's been getting great care since he's been here, and he's been improving, and we're hopeful," David Woodruff said outside the hospital. He declined to give details.
ABC News said the two men might be transferred to a hospital in the United States for further treatment, as soon as Tuesday. Officials here said they had not yet found a suitable hospital for the transfer.
Woodruff faces, at minimum, an arduous convalescence. A person close to the family said he had suffered multiple broken ribs and a shoulder and skull fracture. Bomb fragments pierced his neck and back, though apparently not his brain. Doctors have kept him unconscious, this person said, and the extent of his head wounds was not yet clear.
Woodruff underwent three hours of surgery on Monday to remove shrapnel, another person close to the family said. Both people spoke anonymously because they did not want to speak publicly for the family.
Woodruff, 44, and Vogt, 46, arrived at 8:30 a.m. Monday on a military transport plane carrying 31 wounded soldiers - about a normal daily influx for this hospital. Doctors spent the first few hours conducting tests to determine how they had weathered the seven-hour flight.
"They were treated by our trauma and critical-care team, and are undergoing evaluation and re-testing," the hospital's commander, Col. W. Bryan Gamble, said in an interview. He said their lives had probably been saved by the body armor they wore.
The men were wounded when the bomb exploded while they were standing in the open hatch of an Iraqi military vehicle. Woodruff said a few words after he was hit, said Tom Brokaw, the former NBC News anchor, who spoke to Woodruff's wife, Lee, and later reported on that conversation on the "Today" show.
"These improvised devices can give very significant injuries to many parts of the body: the extremities, the face, the torso," Gamble said, adding that both men were "heavily sedated."
Lee Woodruff also arrived at the hospital on Monday, as did Vivian Vogt, Vogt's wife. ABC News sent a senior executive, Robert Murphy.
"As we have known, Doug is in somewhat better condition than Bob," David Westin, the president of ABC News, said in a statement. "But the doctors are pleased with how they came through the transfer."
"We have a long way to go," Westin said. "But it appears that we may have also come some distance from yesterday."
The explosion occurred as Woodruff and Vogt were riding in the Iraqi vehicle near Taji, a tense area northwest of Baghdad. They had been part of a news team accompanying units of the 4th Infantry Division and had initially traveled in a U.S. Army armored Humvee.
Before the attack, they switched to the more lightly armored Iraqi vehicle, the network reported. Colleagues at ABC News said Woodruff and Vogt were careful and had not taken any undue risks. They were wearing body armor, helmets and ballistic glasses.
Doctors here noted that the equipment, while protecting their bodies, would not have shielded their necks or faces. Fragments from roadside bombs tend to blow upward, which makes helmets less effective, said Col. Ronald Place, a surgeon and deputy commander of the hospital.
Place said the condition of Woodruff's brain would be a crucial issue for his recovery prospects. Brokaw said doctors had told Lee Woodruff that the swelling in her husband's brain had subsided.
"In Bob's case, that had been a big concern," Brokaw said on the "Today" show. "Yesterday they had to operate and remove part of the skull cap to relieve some of the swelling."
Doctors at the Landstuhl hospital learned of the explosion on television, and on the assumption that Woodruff and Vogt would be flown here, began tracking their treatment on a Web-based tracking system, as the men were flown from the scene in Taji to a field hospital in Balad. The system, Place said, allows Landstuhl to do a sort of electronic triage, preparing doctors and equipment.
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