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Shrapnel Taken From Woodruff's Head

ABC News, anchor, Bob Woodruff, iraq, iran
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Surgeons have removed shrapnel from ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff's head and neck, a family friend said Monday, and a hospital official said body armor likely saved the journalist's life.

Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously injured when a roadside bomb exploded Sunday while they standing in the open hatch of an Iraqi military vehicle. They underwent surgery in Iraq, then were flown to a U.S. military base in Germany for further treatment.

"They're both very seriously injured, but stable," said Col. Bryan Gamble, commander of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in western Germany. He said both men were heavily sedated and under the care of the hospital's trauma team.

Their body armor likely saved them, "otherwise these would have been fatal wounds," Gamble said.

Woodruff and Vogt, an award-winning cameraman, were embedded with the 4th Infantry Division and traveling in a convoy Sunday with U.S. and Iraqi troops near Taji, about 12 miles north of Baghdad.

They were wearing body armor and helmets but were standing up in the hatch of the mechanized vehicle when the device exploded, exposing them to shrapnel. An Iraqi solder also was hurt in the explosion.

Former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw said Monday that he had spoken with Woodruff's wife, Lee, and said the family told him they had received "some encouraging news."

"The doctors had told them once they arrived that the brain swelling had gone down. In Bob's case, that had been a big concern. Yesterday they had to operate and remove part of the skull cap to relieve some of the swelling," Brokaw said on NBC'S "Today" show.

"IED'S — improvised explosive devices — are the simplest — and deadliest — weapon in the insurgents' arsenal," reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer. "They're basically homemade bombs, made of old artillery shells or stolen explosives, and hidden by the roadside."

"Doug was conscious, and I was able to reassure him we were getting them care. I spoke to Bob also and walked with them to the helicopter," said ABC senior producer Kate Felsen, who had been working with Woodruff for the past two weeks.

"Immediately after the explosion he turned to his producer and said 'Am I alive?' and 'Don't tell Lee,' and then he began to cry out in excruciating pain," Brokaw said.

He said the family told him doctors don't know for sure whether shrapnel penetrated Woodruff's brain but they were removing additional shrapnel from his neck area.

Woodruff, 44, began anchoring "World News Tonight" with Elizabeth Vargas earlier this month.