[B. Woodruff]On January 29, 2006, while reporting from Iraq,
my cameraman, Doug Vogt, and I were wounded by a roadside bomb.
I nearly died.
But I got the best military and civilian medical care in the world.
I was very, very lucky.
[male speaker] I was knocked unconscious with whatever they hit me with.
And had they left then, I probably would be a physician today.
But that is when they continued
to kick and stomp on my head against the pavement
while I was unconscious. I lived.
So I don't know what my mission on this earth is, but there's a reason why I'm still here,
and I guess I have to figure out what my mission in life is.
[male speaker] The day I got hurt, we had gone on a patrol.
We got hit with a massive, massive bomb.
I was lying on the ground, I had blood all over my face
and I was like, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God."
Boom! And then I was out.
They never really told us the extent of the injuries.
We didn't find out until much later
that a piece of shrapnel went through his face
and came out right below his eye and shattered his face.
It was just all this craziness. He's in a coma, just overwhelming news.
[♪mellow music♪] [Going the Distance - a work-in-progress]
[J. Poole] The Marine recruiters came to my school.
One of the recruiters was just like, "Hey, man, how would you like to join the Marine Corps?"
The way he presented it to me, it was like it was going to be a great adventure.
[J. Poole] Then September 11th happened.
It was like the whole world has changed.
I was just like, "Oh, sh**. We're going to war."
I graduated from Yale University pre-med in 1995,
decided to go to Hawaii on vacation, and was assaulted
and put into a coma for just less than a month,
and I have been living with a brain injury ever since.
[D. Poole] I walked into the room
and then you just see a lifeless body that is my brother.
He's in a bed with the machine breathing for him,
his face swollen out to here, his tongue was out,
he had tubes coming out of everything, a tube in his throat
and he was just lifeless.
[female speaker] I remember crying my eyes out that night.
I was crying like a baby next to him, holding his hand,
talking to him, just getting it all over with.
And then the next day I was like, "Right, okay, gotta be hard core now."
[D. Poole] I walked up to Jason's room late at night. Nobody else was there.
I was just holding his hand, and I remember I was just crying.
I was just like, "You know, you're going to be okay."
"Just push through this."
[L. Poole] From that point on, I never thought that he was going to die
because I knew that he couldn't because I would kick his ass. [chuckles] He could not die.
[telephone rings] [Waller] My mother had gotten that 4:30 a.m. phone call,
"Mrs. Waller, Jay has been involved in an accident. You need to get here" [chuckles]
"as fast as you can."
When I think about how amazing my family is,
what they went through was a hundred times worse than what I went through.
It was painful for everybody, I mean, not to even know if I was going to live.
But then if I was to survive, is Jay going to be able to walk?
Is he going to be able to talk?
The phone rang, and the voice said, "Lee, this is David Westin,"
who is the president of ABC News. And my heart sort of stopped.
I knew that this wasn't good.
When we got to the hospital, there were just so many doctors.
I just remember thinking, "All of these people are caring for Bob."
It was ENTs, it was the neurosurgeon, it was the general surgeon.
When Bob first arrived here,
he was in a semicomatose state. He was not following commands.
[J. Poole] My first memories in Bethesda, I woke up and I looked up.
It was like, "What's all this? Who are these people? Where am I?"
[L. Poole] I remember the first time I knew that he was okay.
He looked at me and went [mouths words].
I knew that he just said, "What's wrong?"
I'm just like, "What, are you kidding me, dude?" [laughs] "You're kidding me."
"You've been to the brink of death and back, and you're asking me what's wrong?"
[Waller] I had introduced myself to my sister. I didn't even know who she was.
I'd say, "Hi, I'm Jay. Nice to meet you."
And then she'd say, "Hi, I'm Wendy Waller."
And I'd say, "Oh, shoot. I should have known that." [chuckles]
I couldn't really talk that well, but apparently I asked my nurse to marry me.
And that's when my family knew that Jay is coming back. [laughs]
[L. Woodruff] I walked in the room and I parted the curtain
and Bob was sitting up in bed.
And he turned to me and he said, "Sweetie, where have you been?"
just like that. [Bob and Lee chatting]
And I think I rushed over to him and gave him a big kiss.
And then I thought, "Okay, where do I begin?"
[Bob and Lee chatting]
[male speaker] I picked up the phone and it was Lee, and she said,
"Dave, I'm here with your brother in the hospital,
"and we've had a little bit of a miracle."
"He's awake, he's talking, he's asking what happened to him."
[male speaker] What do you think, Big Dave? >>It's unbelievable.
[D. Woodruff] And I couldn't believe it.
I'm in shock.
[♪♪] [female speaker] Jason arrived at Palo Alto VA on a gurney.
He was not capable of sitting up. He didn't have the trunk strength to even sit up in a chair.
And he wasn't communicating at all,
didn't have a consistent yes or no,
wasn't nodding and indicating yes and no.
[J. Poole] It was like, "Jason, how are you?"
"So are you okay with the war?"
It was just like I didn't have comprehension.
But after a month, month and a half, when I'm starting to learn everything,
"How do you like the war?"
There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that because of his brain injury
Jason suffers more pain and suffering than the rest of us do in confronting life.
The self that was before the blast is forever gone.
The blast had taken part of his skull.
He had lost an eye and an ear.
I'm deaf in my left ear, I'm blind in my left eye,
I have shrapnel all over my body
and my right arm has got shrapnel.
Before my accident I was a little hot boy.
I was very English, and I had many girlfriends.
They'd tell me that my accent is very sexy.
But after the blast and I woke up and I looked in the mirror,
I saw the ugliest person I've ever seen.
And it was me.
The blast smashed all the bones in my face.
I couldn't see the old Jason.
[Zeiner] This had been a formerly handsome, attractive, physically fit,
funny, heart of the party kind of guy.
He had a fiancee. He was going to marry her, and they were very much in love.
The Jason who came back was very different.
Jason getting hurt I know was extremely hard for Michelle.
I know she cried a lot.
I didn't really talk to her about why she couldn't be with him,
but I understood how hard it was for her, and I still understand how hard it is for her.
[Zeiner] They have remained friends.
But that was another wound for Jason, a wound after he had survived the blast.
[Waller] The hardest part for me is the fact that I didn't even know that I had a disability.
I was told it was my disability itself that inhibited me from seeing
the fact that I had a disability.
You make excuses for yourself, you rationalize, you justify, you do all these things.
But I look fine, I sound fine, but people just don't understand.
[Zeiner] The Jason you see now that looks like a regular guy
is the result of nine surgeries to put bone plates back in
to give him a round head shape, to reconstruct the part of the face that was damaged.
He has an artificial eye to make the two eyes match.
His other eye, the one that works, had a lot of scarring and drooping.
[J. Poole] I looked in the mirror. I know I'm not a hot boy.
But, "You look normal. You look okay."
The acceptance of how he looked was a part of giving him the world back.
I had to reteach myself how to walk, how to talk.
I went through speech therapy, I went through physical therapy,
I went through occupational therapy.
I really just kind of regained the activities of daily living.
The task of someone with a significant brain injury is to reinvent who they are,
to acknowledge the disabilities in order to be able to compensate around them.
I can remember that I was a good athlete, and I can remember how I swung a tennis racket.
I can remember exactly how I served.
Probably ten months later, I went out to play tennis with my sister.
I could not hit the ball. I whiffed on everything.
It was so frustrating.
"I am doing this just how I always used to. Why is it not working?"
Being-- Oh, dude, I'm sorry, man. >>No problem, no problem.
Being a TBI-- Oh, dude, I can't remember, man.
The left side of my brain is damaged,
so reading, writing, spelling, talking is very, very difficult for me to do.
[attempting to form words]
[groans in frustration]
I tried to read from a third year old book, and that book was so hard for me to read.
M-I-R... >>Mar-- >>Mir, mir... >>Mir...
A... >>A--belle. Mirabelle. >>Mirabelle.
Mrs. Mirabelle. >>Right.
[Zeiner] Now he's reading, but he's reading at about a 4th grade level
and very slowly.
And it's not going to be enough in the near future for him
to be able to go to college, to become the teacher that he wanted to be.
How do you write a paragraph?
So for the first thing, you have to write a topic, but...
[Zeiner] You've now seen him five years post injury
where he's literally worked five days a week for five years,
and to a certain extent, Jason has become almost a poster child
for recovery from traumatic brain injury for people returning from this conflict
because he has this spirit that, "I'm going to have what's important in life."
"I'm going to make it meaningful. Whatever it takes, I'm going to do it."
[J. Poole] For the first time when I took a bus by myself,
I was just waiting for number 23.
Pretty nervous, okay. But I forgot all the location.
So that means we went down the bus by a mile, past the mile.
I was like, "Wait, I'm wrong. Okay."
So then I had to get off the bus, cross the street and wait for the bus
to wait to come over here.
I needed to train my brain, I guess, if you will, to learn how to remember.
Short-term memory loss was pretty...pretty...
Severe? >>Severe, yes.
They would show you pictures of a rhinoceros, an elephant, a dog, a pillow.
And I can remember looking at them, and there was one of them
that I couldn't get the name, I couldn't get the name.
And she'd be like, "Jay, that would be an elephant."
"Darn! I should have known that."
Pill bottle, candle with a wick.
[off camera speaker] What is this one called? It begins with an H.
Oh, yeah. Hammer. >>Yep.
Hammer. H-A-M-O-R. Hammer. H-A-M-M-E-R. Hammer.
Belt buckle. >>Belt burrel. >>Belt buckle. >>Bet bull.
Belt. >>Belt. >>Bout. >>Bout.
No, Nora, you're confusing him. Belt. >>Belt.
Buckle. >>Buggle. >>Buckle. >>Belt. >>Buckle. >>Buckle. Belt buckle.
You taught me. Belt buckle. You did it!
[Zeiner] One of the effects of the blast is the line between what's a private thought
and what's a public thought has essentially disappeared.
He had a thought, and it would drop like a gumball onto his tongue and just roll right out.
That gets people into problems.
People see me, they hear me talk, I can remember certain things,
I look completely normal, completely normal,
but you get an idea, you just say it.
But it might not be the most appropriate time to say that,
so it comes across as something insulting.
And then you lose friends.
[Zeiner] In order for someone with a brain injury to be able to be in the world
and have meaningfulness and joyfulness,
the environment has to be somewhat more limited
in order to match the capacities.
And where that limitation, that buffering, occurs is usually family and friends
doing some of the protecting.
I think the concept of a buffer, a loving buffer, is a crucial one.
[L. Poole] Your family and friends are your support.
They're the ones that lift you higher,
so you need them to keep on pushing and keep on believing
to make, in our case, Jason strong.
Not that Jason needs our help because he is strong,
but we'd always be there. We wouldn't let him down.
We'll always be there for him, stay positive.
[laughing] >>[L. Poole] All Jason has to do is look at me and I'll laugh
because I can tell by his eyes what he's thinking.
And as you can see, you see that little scruff under his chin?
He's pretty much been growing it since he's been hurt. [laughs]
And that's all that's been growing. [all laugh] It's true.
His goal was to use his GI benefits after he returned to become a kindergarten teacher.
He has a special affinity with children. He really enjoys them.
He sort of considers a part of himself a big kid.
He communicates really well with them.
So one of the things that Jason did was to volunteer at The Whistle Stop,
which is the VA's child care.
[J. Poole] The kids are so cute.
We actually play games. Outside we play hide and go seek or tag.
It makes me feel a kid again.
It's really fulfilling.
They adore him, and he's wonderful with them. And you can see the calling.
You can see that he would have been a fabulous teacher.
He's had parts of the dream come back.
Your life is not over, and it is positive and will be and can be positive.
And you can still achieve, you can still be successful
at whatever you put your mind to.
Going to medical school was probably not an option,
so that door closed.
But I can go back to school.
[female speaker] When I first met Jason Poole,
I remember seeing this guy peeking his head around the corner.
You could tell that he was shy.
And I was like, "Hello?" And he was like, "Hi."
I introduced myself and said, "Hi, I'm Angela."
And he's like, "I'm Jason, Jason Poole."
I was very shy, just like, "Oh, yeah, uh-huh."
I was very, very timid.
[Eastman] He started talking to me about how he got hurt in Iraq,
and he was showing me his scars.
In my brain I would think of the words to say,
but this mouth was not saying.
[Eastman] We hung out, we talked, and we went dancing.
Jason loved to dance. I love to dance.
So he had asked me, "Would you be interested in going out with me?"
And I was like, "Well..."
I wasn't sure because I knew that he had a brain injury and he didn't drive.
I was like, "Yes, I'll go out with you. Let's give it a try."
He just came back all excited, talking about,
"Yeah, me and this girl, we were dancing all night long. I think I like her."
[J. Poole] I was like ten years old and was just like,
"Do you want to be my girlfriend?" It was good. She said yes.
So we started to hang out.
And then he kissed me [giggles] and it was like magical
because when he kissed me, I felt all this electric static go--
I don't know if you could call it static,
but you feel like an explosion in your body. It felt so nice.
So I'm going to feed you. >>Good. [both laugh]
I'll give you a sub.
[Eastman] What impressed me about Jason so much
with him struggling to regain what he's lost, he was so positive about it.
You could see him struggling.
He would start with a sentence, and I had a habit of filling in the words that he was missing,
and he was just like, "Oh! Babe, just let me finish, let me finish."
And then he would forget.
He was trying so hard to be the 100 percent man that he could be,
like he was before his injuries.
Oh, there's your phone. >>It's Angela. I'm sorry. Please wait.
Hello. >>Hey, I forgot to remind you, make sure you wash your hands all day today, okay?
Okay, baby. >>Because with that swine flu, if you touch things,
make sure you wash your hands. >>Okay, baby.
[Eastman] I just wanted to remind you because I just thought about it. I know you. Okay?
[Poole] Yes, baby. >>Love you, babe. >>Love you too.
[Eastman] Okay. Bye-bye. >>Bye.
[J. Poole] I was just like, "Babe, we have a great time and I really love you."
And so then I grabbed her ring and it's just like, "Will you marry me?"
And she was like, [gasp] [imitates crying].
She was crying so loud.
I didn't see it coming, and I just started crying.
I was just like, [imitates crying], "Oh, yes."
I think as a TBI spouse, the number one importance is to have a support system.
You need to have support because if you don't have any support,
you're just going to get depressed.
You're not going to see recoveries from people in one night. It takes time.
Just be patient and take your time and be supportive.
And don't be so quick to just, "Ugh, I give up."
[J. Poole] On Memorial Day, I think about the war
and the friends who passed on.
It's really sad. But I made it. I'm just glad.
So Monday we're going to have barbecue and remember those who have passed on.
Yeah. >>And be grateful that Jason is still here.
Uh-huh. >>Yeah. I get to grow old with Jason.
We're going to get married and have some kids, and then we're going to live old.
That to me is perfect.
His motto is, "Nothing keeps me down."
He has lots of heart.
He wants to give a message of resilience to others who were injured.
[water rushing] [people exclaiming]
[J. Poole] I've done whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon.
It honestly was amazing. [water rushing]
[female speaker] Jason is an absolute delight,
an absolute delight from the first time we talked.
But the change has been incredible.
What I would say was a very, very timid young man coming on to this trip.
Jason now is at the front of the boat. He's in the middle of everything.
He's unloading the boat, he's washing the dishes.
[J. Poole] When I woke up in the morning and I've got to put all this stuff together,
I basically did it all myself.
I put it all back together. I said, "Yes! I did it. I did it!"
So basically, that's why I'm here.
[water rushing] [♪♪]
[J. Poole] For four years, I've been going to Aspen, Colorado,
to go snowboarding.
The award is for the courageous veteran
who helps patients or other veterans.
Six hundred people were in there. "Jason Poole."
I was like, "What the--? It's me?"
"Yeah, it was you."
So then I had to walk up. Everybody--everybody was just standing up and clapping.
It was just an amazing night, an amazing night.
Jason is always going to be the person that inspires.
He's inspiring those people in the VA to have a lot more hope
because he was just like, "Hey, look how far I've come."
"I've got my own house, I've got my own woman."
"Just don't worry about it."
And he just makes people realize that they have lots of potential
and makes them realize they could do whatever they want to do
if they really put their heart into it.
[Zeiner] You'd be away from family.
For me, working with Jason allows me to use everything I ever learned as a therapist.
He continuously surprises me and intrigues me.
It's a very spiritual as well as emotionally intimate relationship.
How are you, my friend? How are you doing? >>Good. How about you?
Do you remember anything that happened?
[Waller] Due to Bob Woodruff's very successful broadcasting life,
he has touched a lot of people. People know him.
His injury combined with who he is and who he's built himself to be,
I would love to be able to touch as many people as he can
through his work and through his book, his wife's book.
I think that he is an extraordinary man. I look forward to meeting him.
I know that we'll have a bond, certainly,
just for the sheer fact that we are brain injury survivors.
It's sort of a brotherhood or sisterhood,
and somebody can understand the same struggles as you have.
It's an added comfort to know that someone else can feel what you feel.
[Waller] I'm now in a doctorate program in physical therapy.
That's perfect for me.
Physical therapy is a huge, huge component of brain injury rehabilitation.
Maybe all things do happen for a reason.
I was able to discover my true path.
[J. Poole] I'm an average Joe, you know.
I just had the crazy crap that happened to me. It just sucked. [laughs]
But it was cool.
Your tattoos are rather cool. >>Thank you.
Extra cool. They look super cool because I love stars.
Have a lovely day. >>You too.
Take care. >>You too.
[J. Poole] My advice to TBI survivors,
first off I have my positive attitude.
It's just like the first year, the first year and a half,
it's a struggle.
But you know what? Just work, work, work.
Just try to be the best that you can.
A couple years down the road it's going to be better.