SCI Superstar: Frank Gardner

Frank Gardner at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2009

The process of transforming from one person, your previous able-bodied self, into a person with a disability is so hard after a spinal cord injury. Who you were….who you are now….they clash, and for BBC journalist Frank Gardner I’m betting this process was a bit more difficult. As a familiar face in the media for years before, the whole country was following his story.

Why he’s fearless

It was in 2004, while riding with his cameraman and friendly Saudis (covering a story in the region) that their car was attacked by gunfire. Frank was shot multiple times and his cameraman, tragically, was killed. He knows he was lucky to survive the attack, despite becoming a paraplegic. This notoriously unstable region could have taken his life. As a 15 year veteran of the BBC at the time of the injury, he knew the risks that were involved (watch this great interview talking about this)

Today, and before his injury, Gardner has been a fierce journalist (even garnering him the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire award for his services after the shooting). From the beginning of his career, it has been all about the Middle East. In 1995, he switched from working as a banker in Saudi Arabia to working as a journalist (quite the career move). Soon, he was the BBC’s first full-time reporter in the region.

And it makes sense he loves this part of the world. His heart has been there since his teens when he had the opportunity to meet legendary British Middle East explorer Sir Wildred Thesiger. Frank went on to receive his undergraduate degree in Arabic (he is one of the few BBC journalists who can speak the language fluently).

After college, Frank served with the British Territorial Army as a lieutenant and as a banker in Saudi Arabia. Yes, this guy was all about having a strong powerful image. No wonder after his injury, Frank had no intention of abandoning his former self or image; and he has been able to make this goal a reality (and one the entire BBC audience has been able to witness).

Since the shooting, Frank has returned to reporting full-time. He also reports on disability issues now, such as this report he did on the difficulties of flying in a wheelchair. And he wrote the best-selling book, Blood and Sand, after his injury describing his 25 years working and living in the Middle East. Frank even leaves the studio to do some reporting (even though he avoids unstable regions) and has reported from the regions of Afghanistan and Colombia.

What’s next?

As a husband and the father of two gorgeous daughters (now inching into their teens), Frank’s life keeps moving forward (despite a few hiccups). Last year, he had to nurse himself back from a broken hip, but was he back reporting in a matter of months. Also since his injury, he’s discovered a new addictive passion – sit-skiing. He even became an honorary president of the Ski Club of Great Britain in 2011, and he skis all over Europe whenever he has time off from work.

Frank Gardner is without question one of the most influential disabled journalists, and his desire to live life as fully as before is incredible impressive. Even more so, I absolutely love how he now uses his career to help others with spinal injuries via his reporting. Definitely make sure to check out the fab links of him below.

What stories have you enjoyed the most from this famous journalist? Would you return to journalism after a shooting?

Watch the videos!

Frank Gardner being interviewed by a disabled reporter

Frank Gardner doing a segment in support of the UK-based SCI charity, Back Up

Frank Gardner doing a report for the BBC on flying as a wheelchair-user

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