As he returns to his role as BBC security correspondent, 10 months after being shot by militants, Frank Gardner talks about his ordeal.
After being taken to a Saudi hospital, Gardner returned to the UK
I have often wondered what it feels like to be shot, but I never expected to find out firsthand.
I now know that there is a massive difference between a gunshot wound to a non-vital part of the body and one to the central, visceral core.
The first bullet that hit me on that fateful Sunday afternoon in Riyadh last June went clean through my shoulder. I remember it felt like a bee sting, nothing more.
But the bullets that were pumped methodically into me at point blank range by al-Qaeda's fanatical militants shook my body to the core. Each hit felt like a giant hand was picking me up and slamming me down onto the tarmac.
FRANK GARDNER - THE REAL STORY
Tuesday, 19 April 2005
BBC ONE, 2315 BST
Repeated at 1930 BST on BBC ONE on Bank Holiday Monday, 2 May
Amazingly it didn't hurt at first.
But minutes later, when my attackers had left me for dead and the adrenaline had begun to wear off, the pain became unspeakable. To this day I don't know how I didn't black out.
Over the past few weeks I have been finding out more about what happened to me in surgery once I was driven by the Riyadh police to an under-equipped local hospital.
Had I not been rescued by an expert team from the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, led by the brilliant South African trauma surgeon Dr Peter Bautz, I would have been dead within two hours.
While I had willed myself to stay conscious until I got to the operating table the damage done by the six bullets was already starting to close my body down.
My heart was pumping blood to only the vital organs, I had lost huge amounts of blood and my temperature had dropped dangerously to 30C.
I went into something called DIC, Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation, where the whole body starts to clot. I am told it is one of the last things before death and I was only saved by massive doses of a miracle drug called Activated Factor 7.
Even so, after 12 operations and 8 months in hospital my wounds have left me officially disabled, in a wheelchair now after my spinal nerves were severed by the gunshot wounds.
As well as learning more about my rescue from the brink of death I have also learned more recently about the cell that attacked me and my cameraman, Simon Cumbers, who was killed.
Simon Cumbers died aged 36
As part of the group calling itself 'Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular', the gunmen were linked to those who carried out the massacre at Al-Khobar a week earlier.
One week after our attack they kidnapped an American helicopter technician, Paul Johnson, and beheaded him alive on camera, keeping his head in the family freezer in one of their Riyadh 'safehouses'.
They also filmed themselves murdering another American expatriate at around the same time, shooting him on the ground in his garage despite his pleas for mercy.
Since then, the Saudi authorities have engaged in numerous shootouts with the militants, killing many of the key figures and uncovering large caches of arms and explosives.
Right now, the insurgency is thought to be on the back foot, with the Saudi security services gaining in confidence and skill.
But such is the fanaticism and determination of the militants that another attack on either westerners or even on one of the royal princes is still a distinct possibility.
Real Story: BBC ONE, Tuesday 19 April, 2005 at 2315 BST. The programme will be repeated at 1930 BST on BBC ONE on Bank Holiday Monday, 2 May.
This Real Story has been moved from its usual time to make way for the first of three party leader interviews ahead of the General Election.
Welcome back Frank. I have very much missed your reports - so concise and lucid. You bring understanding and clarity to confusing situations. Looking forward to hearing you many times in the future.
J Crankshaw, UK
Saw your story, shouted to my daughter, hey Frank's back at work, like you were a family member or something. Wonderful news, we have been thinking of you a lot. Warmest welcome back and best wishes from us Kiwis.
Diane Andrews, Dunedin. New Zealand.
It's very good to see you back. Your determination and the will to win through is great inspiration. May you continue to heal quickly. Your clear and perceptive analysis of the threats that face us is to be equally welcomed again.
Mike Sims, Aylesbury, Bucks
It is absolutely splendid to hear that Frank Gardner is back at the BBC. His objective insight and unbiased clarity on Middle East affairs is a breath of fresh air.
Hormuz Mehta, Singapore
I remember hearing with shock and horror of the attack on Frank Gardner and Simon Cumbers. It was with enormous sadness, since it is vital that we in the West, have a clear understanding of the Muslim world. If we remain in ignorance of the reasons why highly intelligent, highly educated people are able to gun down people in sheer cold blood and with the pure hatred, Frank so eloquently described in the Hard Talk interview, then we had better really start to fear for the future.
We must have journalists with the intelligence and integrity of Frank Gardner who report with balance, understanding and knowledge of the people and their cultures. Thank you for coming back Frank, it is so good to know we will continue to get a sound picture of the Muslim world. My condolences also to Simon Cumbers family.
Patricia Signoriello, Milton Keynes
So glad to see you back on our screens again Frank. We have missed your unique reporting style, due to your immaculate diction we could hear and understand all you had to say. May your rehab be totally successful.
Bryan Capes, Stockport, Cheshire
Well done, for fighting so hard to survive, and to come back to work, and for achieving it. You have my admiration and support. I have always appreciated your thoughtful and intelligent reporting and commentary. Best wishes to you and your family.
Andrea Benson, Canterbury, UK
Great to have you back Frank. Greatly appreciate your unbiased, in-depth and fearless journalism. Sad that Simon is not with us on this happy day. Keep up the good work.
Amit Roy, Hamburg, Germany
Frank, we used to follow your reports when we were expats in the Middle East and they always carried great credibility - it's great to see you back at work and we will be watching ! All the very, very best of luck for the future.
Andy Baird, Tadley, UK
I am delighted at Frank's recovery but equally saddened, once again, by Simon Cumbers paying the ultimate sacrifice at the prime of his life. I wish we had more journalists like these two who would go to any length in the way of objective reporting.
Muhammed, Peshawar, Pakistan
I'm Happy to hear through BBC news today that Frank Gardner is back to work. Thank God that you are alive. When all this happened to you I felt sorry and worried in case you might not be back at work. So today it was a surprise to hear such hopeful news about you. I'll be happy to hear you again on World BBC news. To me you are a brave guy and you deserve a lot for your extraordinary job. Good luck! Massengo Evrard Rodrigue (I from Congo-Brazzaville and live in Madrid).
Great to have you back Frank! You've been sorely missed.
Hanna Steplewska, Denver, CO, USA
Thank God! Welcome back Frank and wish you a full recovery!
I am pleased to hear Mr. Gardner recovered back to his work. Mr Gardner has a special gift of explaining events clearly. He is one of the most talented journalist which the world ever seen. May God help him in his daily life.
Selemawit Andom, Asmara,Eritrea
Being a big fan of BBC, (my home page) where I get most of my news, this is a wonderful story about a real journalist, of a kind that is rapidly disappearing in my country due to corporate editing. Cheers to you Frank.
Ralph Hoagland, Loxahatchee FL USA
What a remarkable story is that of Frank Gardener! Keep up the good work in what ever role you will have at the BBC and may continue keep us abreast of what is happening in the all around the world. As the say, information is power and we owe it to you Frank for having had made it available to us through the BBC. Stay well.
Eugene Mwila, Kitwe, Zambia
I am so pleased that Frank Gardner will return to our radios and TVs. He sheds much needed light on his subject, and his return will prove that fanaticism, terrorism and brutality cannot overcome the power of democracy and a free press. I salute his bravery and send him my best wishes
Carl Tomlinson, Steeple Aston UK
I have always been a great fan of Frank's impartial and balanced news reporting: his was always the voice of objectivity and dignity in an ocean of biased sensationalist journalism.
Shuaib M. Shah, Maldives
Oh wonderful! I said to myself having just heard the on the radio the great news that Frank Gardner is back at work. I will never forget the day when I heard he had been shot and over the months often wondered how he was progressing, and was therefore relieved to see him back on the screen just a few months ago speaking of his experience. He is a remarkable man, a brilliant correspondent and I therefore look forward to seeing Frank again giving his excellent reporting on Iraq and the Arab world. It's great to have you back Frank.
Rita Gregory, Milton Keynes, Bucks
Please give my best wishes to Frank Gardener. He's a real, honest, good man. I agree with his take on the Middle East. A man to admire.
Bryan Mear, Malvern
I am so pleased that Frank Gardner has returned to his reporting duties with the BBC. I found his coverage of security issues to be full of insight and delivered with clarity, more so than any other journalist. I hope that his terrible experience has not dulled his passion for helping the public understand this complex world.
Robert Rees, London, UK
Well done, Frank! It's great to have you back. We need experts like you who understand the culture and the language. Your story is immensely moving and also inspiring. Good luck.
Dr Brian Robinson, Milton Keynes, UK
I am so pleased to hear that Frank Gardner is back at work. One of the best reporters in any medium, he explains everything so well. An inspiration to us all not to let thugs and bullies win. Love and prayers to you and your family.
Margaret Wellens, Manchester, England
So thrilled and delighted that Frank is returning to work. What a marvellous testament to the indomitable spirit of one man and the faithful and skilful support of many medical staff. Frank's clear- headed analysis and insight have been very much missed and I look forward to him being back on our screens and radios.
Mary Murphy, St Albans, England
Frank, I pray for your full recovery. I always enjoyed your reports and I really feel that I missed you for the last year or so. Those who attacked you, I just pray for them as well that they should return to the normal lives and lead a humane life! Cheers!
Harikrishnan, India, Kerala
I saw the interview with Frank Gardner on Breakfast this morning and I was deeply moved by the resolution with which he recalled the dreadful experience - I can't even begin to imagine how terrible it was. I wish him all the best with his career now he is back at the BBC and look forward to seeing him reporting in due course. My thoughts also go to Simon Cumber's family for their terrible loss.
Matt Bennett, Swansea
I passed you at your hospital one day a few months ago and wanted to shake your hand, but know how intrusive that sort of thing can be. So, accept a handshake from a distance. Good luck with the rest of your recovery and enjoy your continued successful career.
So glad to read that Frank is back, my best wishes to you Frank, we have all missed you. Take care now.
Dave Newman, Barry, UK
Delighted to see Frank Gardner back at work - we missed your knowledge and interpretation - I always felt Frank had his finger exactly on the button. So glad you are back!
Anna, London UK
It was wonderful to see Frank back among us. When reports of his attack came through my wife planted a piece of heather and nurtured it for months. It has grown and flowered. We both look forward to the continuance of Frank's incisive and intelligent reports and feel sadness at the loss of his colleague Simon Cumbers.
Denis Price, Beverley, East Yorkshire, England
As much as I felt delighted to see Frank Gardner back to his family and worldwide audience, I am very sad that Simon was unable to make it. Frank's recovery is an example of courage and determination for all those men and women who strive and yearn for a world free from extremism and blindness. As a Saudi National, I wish all the best for Frank with his future endeavours, and express my deepest sympathy and solidarity with Simon's family and friends.
Abdulrahman, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
I was absolutely delighted to Frank back on TV this morning. I have missed his knowledge and style on reporting on security issues. I admire him and his family in getting to this stage. Terrorists could wound or kill any of us but they will never break our collective spirit. They will never win.
Vanessa Gregory, St Albans, England
Frank, you are a very brave man. Superb to have your authoritative voice back at the Beeb.
Peter Davis, UK
Great news, Frank, to know you are back at work - have missed your reports. They were so clear and helpful to this listener who has so little knowledge of the Arab world.
David Lowis, Villingen, Germany
Welcome back Frank. My prayers and thoughts are with you, your family and the family of Simon Cumbers. I was shocked when I heard about the shooting. What was most infuriating is that whenever I have seen or heard Frank on BBC News, he has always been fair and even handed on the whole Al-Qaeda issue. As a British Muslim I am proud of the BBC for journalists like Frank, who allow me to be reassured that this country is not out to get me, and that there is a distinction between Muslims, and Muslim terrorists. I pray you have the courage and strength to carry on with your great work Frank. Thank You
Abid Hussain, Manchester, UK
Wonderful commitment and awesome survival! This again speaks how huge is the cost of each news that flashes in our screens. Thanks Frank for your message and forgiveness that is reflected between the lines.
Mesfin, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
A most amazing story from an amazing correspondent. Frank epitomises what BBC journalism is really about, fearless pursuit of the facts, welcome back Frank.
Gary Rae, Halifax, UK
Welcome back Frank, welcome back. So glad you've pulled through and can't wait to see your reports again.
Nish Shah, London
Delighted to hear the good news of Frank's return to work. We wish him well and are thrilled that we will be able to benefit once again from his intellectual and professional prowess.
Janet Walker, Brampton, Cumbria UK
Your health is important right now. I pray that you return to full ability. God be with you.
Kazem, Berkshire, UK
Welcome back Frank. That you are a brave man is obvious; that you were lucky to survive is undeniable; that your survival equips you with a unique perspective on the brutal methods employed by the terrorists who challenge the west's democracy and freedoms is evident. Your role as the BBC's security correspondent now is all the more challenging, and all the more vital.
Bob Wheaton, London, England
Dear Frank, Thank you for doing that vital work of accurate reporting in very difficult circumstances. I had wanted to know how you are getting on. Welcome back. I hope you continue to get better. You are an inspiration to us all.
Jean Currie, Cambridge UK
A huge welcome back to Frank Gardner - it was an absolute delight to see him on Breakfast this morning. Please also let's remember Simon Cumbers and his family. With every good wish to Mr Gardner.
Elizabeth Cane, London England
As a family, we are thrilled that Frank is back, there is no doubt that you have gone to hell and back, but you have prevailed and we congratulate you! The media need to concentrate more on the methods and means used to transform regular men looking for a job, into terrorists willing to kill anyone who doesn't see the west as the common enemy - now that is a story we'd all like to see.
Lamis, UAE, Dubai
Dear Frank, I am so delighted to know you're back. So sorry though for the death of Simon. I and my friends are big fans of yours and the way you pronounce "Al-Qaeda" perfectly. It was a big blow to us to hear about what happened. I really hope that what happened to you will not give you a negative impression of all Arabs, Muslims or Middle Easterners. Being an Arab makes me ashamed because of what happened to you, but people who did this to you don't belong to us, and we don't belong to them. I am happy for you and your family, and am looking forward to seeing you on TV again.
Hilal Al-Ismaili, Dundee - UK (Originally from Oman)
Please tell Frank Gardner it is good to see him back and recovering from his terrible injuries.
Graham in Alyth
Your bravery and courage is an inspiration to us all. Amazing!
Rick Eastwood, UK, Congleton
Welcome back Frank - you have been missed.
Robert Tucker, Wokingham, UK
I am delighted that Frank is back at work, have really missed his professional reports, he is a credit to his profession, very courageous and as I would expect a fighter. Good luck Frank. You are an example to us all,
Frank's former colleagues from his Flemings' days will be delighted with the news that he is back at work. Give him my and their best wishes.
Mickey Warrender, London, UK
I am very pleased that Frank has returned to work. I have missed his reporting .I wish him well.
Kenna Rimell, Huntly Scotland
So glad to see Frank is back at work after his ordeal, his erudite and incisive comments on the threat of terrorism have been sorely missed. The only down side is that my girlfriend thinks he's gorgeous!
Matt Hart, London, UK
Welcome back Frank! Our prayers have been answered. I wish you and your family much happiness. Your reports are captivating. God bless you.
Lynne Chester, Brighton UK
I would just like to say how brave Frank has been throughout this ordeal and I hope he has a fantastic wife who must have been worried sick about her husband. I wish him all the best for the future.
Kate Roberts, London,United Kingdom
Frank, welcome back - looking forward to seeing you on our screens again!
Joseph, Hereford, England
I am really happy Frank is well and back to work. He is an excellent reporter and a brave man. People like him do a superb job in keeping us up to date. Living in Saudi Arabia as an expatriate made me appreciate Franks work even more. Looking forward to more of his reports.
Afreen, Saudi Arabia
Frank Gardner is a talented and a distinctive reporter. Good to see him back after all he has been through.
Tim Matthews, Haslemere, Surrey
Frank - Good to have you back. You are an inspiration.
Siamack Salari, Twickenham UK
So pleased to hear this morning that Frank Gardiner is returning after so many months of rehabilitation. Having read his story above, it is a miracle that he survived such a horrendous attack and his courage is to be admired. All the very best.
Jennie Hoare, Bradford on Avon, UK
I watched the Hardtalk programme where Frank Gardner was being interviewed. I had no idea his injuries left him confined to a wheelchair. I was stunned by Frank's bravery and composure as he recalled the events of that terrible day. What an incredible chap he his. His enormous respect for the people and culture of the region and the fact he doesn't blame them at all for what happened is an example we should all follow. Especially, in this post 9/11 world.
Colin Mitchell, UK, London
It is good to see Mr Gardner back. We wish him Mr Gardner a full recovery. Good wishes to him and his family.
M A Rahman, London England
What happened to Frank was terrible but I am so glad to hear that he has recovered enough to take up his work again: his reports were always worth listening to and he speaks with obvious authority and inside knowledge. However what a pity that this program is being aired at such an anti-social hour! Come on BBC - Frank deserves better scheduling than that after what he has been through!
Pete Smith, London UK
Frank it's great to see that you have not let this close call break your spirit, we all admire your courage and bravery in pursuit of a story and reporting the truth. Take care but don't let what has happened beat you.
Allan Brooks, Kent
I'm really glad that you are back. There can be nothing more intimidating to this sort of thug than someone who isn't intimidated by their methods. Good luck
Good to hear Frank will be back. I look forward to hearing his reports on Five Live's Drive programme.
Rob, Buckingham, UK
I am so happy to see Frank has recovered and is back, but sad that Simon could not be there right now with Frank.
Nick, Peckham, London
Wonderful news about Frank. I had been wondering how Frank was getting on and if he would be able to get back to work. I admire his courage and look forward to hearing him again.
Dia Bates, Langport Somerset
Mr Gardner, it's just brilliant to see you back on the BBC! I think it's great news for the BBC that you've decided to return. Can't wait to see your always fascinating reports yet again.
Steph, Northern Ireland
It's great to see Frank Gardner back to work. We spent a lot of time praying he would be ok. We can only thank God - good to see you back Frank.
I am delighted that Frank Gardner has recovered enough from his injuries to return to work. His analytical insight into the Middle East situation has been missed. He has the gift of putting things clearly and concisely into layman's terms without coming over as patronising. However, I am puzzled as to the very late timing of Real Story. Okay, I understand the reason for moving it, but this should not be on so late. Move something else - a make-over show for example. This is too important a subject for a graveyard slot.
Susan Wakefield, UK
It is fantastic news to see Frank back to his job. As a regular reader and viewer of the BBC and an admirer of Frank, my wife and I were both shocked and even she cried when the terrible news broke. Frank's professional and intellectual qualities are appreciated and admired from a wide audience both in the UK and around the world - I say this as a Libyan national. I deeply wish Frank every success and quick return to give us his views.
Hafed Sherwi, Sussex, UK
I am delighted to learn that Frank Gardner is back in business. He is a man of great courage just to have survived, but he has done more than this. He will be an asset and an inspiration to others in his profession.
E Keen, UK
Absolutely delighted that Frank has returned to work, he is undoubtedly one of he BBC's best correspondents and has been really missed. I particularly like his ability to look at all aspects of Iraq and al Qaeda in a truly analytical way. I would like to suggest that he may find homeopathy very useful. Best wishes
Mark Savill, Sheffield
This is an amazing story, but why call the attackers 'militants'? Surely, you should call a spade a spade - they were 'terrorists'.
Gavin Cameron, UK