I guess Lent's supposed to be about some kind of privation before the plenty. There's certainly plenty of the former out there. Some people even get to feeling all holy about themselves because they're praying and fasting and going to confession which, I confess, makes you better than me. I try to make up by keeping in mind the stories of others who were deprived of something they might never get back. So before signing off:
Back in January, just after the Florida victory over Ohio State, I posted briefly about a Gator fan who, in the ecstatic aftermath, ran naked into the streets of Gainesville and got hit by a car. Thinking that I was having too much fun at the poor fellow's expense, my wife made me delete the post. She also happened to know the family. Good woman that she is, she'd probably have made me delete it anyway. It turns out the young man suffered a terrible brain injury and lies to this day in what appears to be a semi-coma (I don't know the technical name for this half waking-half sleeping state.) The coma was at first drug-induced for his own safety. A couple of weeks ago he was moved out of the hospital's care in Gainesville - there was nothing more they could do for him - and is now back in this area in a long-term care facility. There's a webpage where we can track his progress, but it's for friends and family only. In short, when he raises a finger on command, it is a great victory. When he blinks twice on command, it is cause for celebration. When he takes a drop of water off the end of a Q-tip, it seems a great stride toward full recovery. But it hasn't come yet, nor any miracle. The family's lucky if he stays awake for 45 minutes out of the day. Their daily existence balances on the painful point of an unending prayer: that the progress will not suddenly cease, that he will not return to a permanent sleep. So far, they say, so good. Whatever goodness comes, the journey will be a long one.
And then there is the story of Bob Woodruff, the ABC newsman injured by an IED in Iraq. Maybe some of you saw the powerful documentary this past week. Bob suffered a brain injury too:
"When the IED actually exploded, I don't remember that," Woodruff continued. "But I do remember at that moment I saw my body floating below me and...a whiteness...I just saw something."
Moments later, he woke up in the tank and saw his cameraman Doug Vogt. "When I fell into the tank, I looked up and I saw Doug Vogt sitting right here across from me, and I know that I was spitting a lot of blood out of my mouth. And I looked up at Doug, and I saw his eyes big and afraid, and I saw the blood dripping down his face, just asking if we were still alive. And then that's really the last that I remember."
...Woodruff's producer, Vinnie Malhotra, describes those terrifying moments after the attack: "Bob turned around and he looked right at me. And he said to me, 'Am I alive?' And I said, 'You're alive!' I said, 'You're alive. You're going to be OK.'"
Cmdr. James Dunn, chief of trauma, describes the severity of Woodruff's injuries... "If you look at the brain injuries we have at Bethesda," he says, "his was on the high end of being severe."
Lee Woodruff recounts seeing her husband for the first time, saying, "When I walked around to [Bob's] other side, the left side, that's when I saw what just did not look like Bob."
Fourteen centimeters of his damaged skull had been removed...
He awoke after five weeks.
"I've seen probably less than five [people] that have actually been able to walk back into the ICU and thank us for what we did," says nurse Alison Bishoff. "So, to me, he's a miracle. His recovery was a miracle."
You can watch the entire Woodruff documentary here.