Shrapnel Slows, But Doesn't Stop CBS Reporter
Thursday, May 24, 2007
As the daughter of a World War II veteran, Kimberly Dozier always had a special feeling about Memorial Day.
Her father was wounded during the assault on Iwo Jima, and was one of only two survivors in his 73-man unit. So when the CBS correspondent arrived in Baghdad for another tour of duty shortly before Memorial Day last year, she wanted to chronicle how American troops were spending the day.
She never completed the assignment. A car bomb at an Iraqi checkpoint killed her two crew members, as well as an Army captain and an Iraqi interpreter, and left her with shrapnel in her brain, a missing eardrum and two shattered legs.
One year and more than 25 operations later, the tall, feisty Dozier, once a lowly stringer for The Washington Post, is back on her feet and back on a story -- her own.
"The importance of that day is not that we were there," says Dozier, 40, whose special report on her ordeal will air Tuesday night at 10. "We were there during what happens to soldiers 20 to 30 times a day. Everything that happened that day is the story of the U.S. military in Iraq."
She says she is uncomfortable being the center of attention. "It's partly survivor guilt," says Dozier, who had grown close to her fallen colleagues, cameraman Paul Douglas and sound man James Brolan, during her three years covering the war.
But, she says, "It's probably the best therapy you can have. Every trauma survivor, we want to know every detail. We try to relive every moment. For me, it's an amazing chance to go back. I spoke to my ICU nurse, to the guy who tied the tourniquets to my legs and saved my life."
Dozier's life was in jeopardy. Her heart stopped twice. Brain surgery was required to remove the shrapnel. And doctors said she might never walk again.
After titanium rods were inserted in her legs, it took six weeks of training at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda before she could take 30 steps with a walker, and more time at Baltimore's Kernan Hospital for her to walk with a cane. Dozier felt devastated until she realized that some of the soldiers she had met had lost their limbs.
Her parents, who live in the Baltimore suburb of Timonium, not far from where she spent part of her childhood, provided encouragement. Although Dozier walks normally now, her legs remain badly scarred and she still requires physical therapy. A new eardrum has been grafted into her ear. There is still shrapnel in her head.
She spent part of the winter recuperating at the New Zealand home of her boyfriend, Pete. They met in Baghdad, where Pete (whose last name Dozier is withholding for safety reasons) was providing security for CBS and other organizations.
"He wouldn't date me," Dozier recalls. "He finally asked his boss for permission after I asked him out three times."