I had fourteen surgical operations. BETH - I mean, how did you deal with it when you, as you say, you're in your cocoon saudii you are in your mind? I was starting to do physio. I had a constant stream of visitors, which was cat. At one point they sent me a psychiatrist to see if I was okay and this squdi sat on the edge of my bed and said, "So it was a car accident was it?
Please leave, because if you can't be bothered to read the notes before you come in here, I am not opening up to you. He mostly listened, I was in floods xaudi tears as I kind of let everything out, and I think it's so important to do that; you mustn't bottle it in. My advice to anybody who has had a traumatic incident, a traumatic life changing catastrophic injury or event or illness, write it down in your laptop and password protect it. You may never use it, but get it all out there.
And that's what I did. As soon as my shoulder had healed enough for me able to write, I wrote down everything I remember about the attack, which was everything, later it became the first chapter of my book, but it might have stayed sealed there forever. Maybe I would have passed it on to my children. It's cathartic to do that. So that's one way I dealt with it.
I was very lucky to have a loving family around me, that sadui were lots of visits. I sajdi some motivation to get better, so the BBC said, "What can we do for you? I cyat to get back to work. BETH -Unbelievably, you were back at work within ten months. Look, chqt is how I want to do it. We will spend the first day doing the interviews about what happened, then I want to move on and not talk about me anymore and just get back to doing my journalistic job.
And the first overseas trip I did, I think the very next month, we went to Geneva to interview Osama bin Laden's half-brother. He was a perfumer. But I do remember being absolutely exhausted on that trip. It's a short flight, it's what, one hour to Geneva, and I had to lie down when I got there. It took me a year to get my mojo back really.
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BETH -Obviously it was a hugely traumatic experience. Did you experience anything like post-traumatic stress disorder or any flashbacks? A friend of mine who was filming in the Balkans and somebody died very close to him and he got PTSD 11 years later. You don't often see it coming, you know, I'm no way complacent about it, but what I did do was I told everybody who came to visit me who wanted to know exactly what sauddi happened.
Cjat then wrote a book about it, 'Blood and Sand', and I've not really bottled anything up. And plus, there's so much to live for. There sxudi so many places I want to go to. There's so much of the world I still want to see. There's so many things I want to do. My kids are such wonderful girls and I'm very lucky to have a lovely girlfriend as well.
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So, there's lots to live for. BETH -What hcat it like then with this documentary? Because you really had to revisit everything, didn't you? And you met lots of people along the way who also had similar experiences in terms of recovering from serious injury. One, Gerard, had much worse injuries than me.
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Another, Yasmin, had less severe injuries, but was finding it very tough mentally. Ironically, Gerard I think was incredibly robust, although he is a tetraplegic and totally dependent physically on his carer. He wears his disability very lightly. He's studying Middle Eastern language I think, or Arabic language, at the moment for an MA and he was just full of life and zest. Yasmin was able to walk with assistance, but finding life very difficult and it didn't help I think for her that she lives in a flat right at the top of a load of stairs, and I don't think that she perhaps has had the same family and friends support group around her that I've been lucky enough to have.
But the third person, Matt, is not a spinal injuries person, he is an amputee. He was a Royal Marine and had lost part of his leg from an injury in Brecon Beacons. It wasn't even in action, it was in training, and he's found that very hard to deal with and it's been a huge strain on his marriage and it was really interesting meeting him and his wife and it just illustrated to me that the challenge is as much mental as physical. The danger that a lot of people fall into is that they become angry and resentful.
I could easily have gone down this route I think. It's unhealthy to dwell on what could have been or what you could have done. What's done is done. It's much more interesting to focus on the future. And that psychiatrist, Doctor Neil Greenberg, he said. Think about all the stuff that you've salvaged, all the things you can still do.
Your mind is still there. You've still got most of your body. Focus on future things. I wasn't chosen for any skill, it was more of a kind of symbol that here's this guy who's had huge injuries and he's still skiing.
I'm a far better skier now in a sit ski than I was when I was on two legs. I've cracked it now. BETH -I'm glad you brought up the future because there was another bit in the documentary, and I don't want to give away too much, you go and see Frank Cross. BETH -He's very straightforward in what he says to you, which is basically, "No improvement, Frank, and it's going to get worse as you get older.
You might need more care than you would like. So I take great pleasure in continually surprising him. I mean, I think he has been genuinely surprised at how quickly and how far I've recovered.
I keep myself as fit as I can and I think I'm going to keep surprising Frank. I am not going to go down the route that he thinks I am. BETH -The other thing, the fact that because obviously you weren't using your legs or your hips, saudk bone density decreased and so you have osteoporosis. Is that something that you have to manage? What I ought to be doing probably more of is standing and walking chhat bit, but my legs are osteoporotic, that's not going to change. When I was on horseback in Colombia earlier this year, and that's part of it in the film, that's why I made the decision, I need to stop going down this steep ravine now because it's so steep I am going to fall off this horse and my legs will break.
So I called a halt to it then and we found a different way to get down. There have been two times since being shot that I've been really scared.
I was the only guy in a sit ski, I was only disabled person doing it, so I had to compete against Heston Blumenthal, Fiona Bruce, in going down this pretty damn steep slalom. It was in Courmayeur in Italy and we arrived there two days before the race and for two days it rained and then the day of the race it was minus eight so the slope was like glass and you were allowed one practice run.
I went down it and I lost control and basically fell and skidded all the way down. I was terrified. When I had the second go, I know this is going to eat up a lot of seconds, but I'm going to sideslip carefully down the steepest bit. And they had Graham Bell commentating, "Come on, Frank, you need to commit to this slope. You've got to go for it. So we should come full circle.
So the idea of this film was for you to take a look at what does disability or the disabled life mean to you. Did you come to a conclusion at the end of it? Did it change your mind set in anyway? It was refreshing and educational to meet the three people that I did. You can't help comparing your own conditions and injuries and I thought that it's kind of ironic that there is Yasmin who is much more mobile than me, but is finding it much tougher mentally and there is Gerard who's much less mobile than me and has got this fantastic spirit and he's got all this ambition to go back to the Middle East.
I mean, we made a pact on camera that a year from now he was going to go back to the Middle East. Well, he's excused that because of Coronavirus.
BETH -But you definitely did force him into that pact? BETH -On camera. Any takeaway moments? Was there anything that stayed with you? FRANK -I've probably blocked out from my mind those really grim days in hospital, the feeling of utter helplessness.
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And it was a long way away from home so when my wife and daughters came to visit it was a brief visit and then they were a long way away after that. And I could hear children playing in the corridor and they weren't mine, the thought that I would never again run into the sea with my kids or climb a tree with them and play hide and seek, all of those things. Of course, the reality is when you come out of hospital you find other ways of doing it and you can still do this stuff in a wheelchair.
But at the time it was very, very depressing. It's tempting to feel an enormous wave of self-pity, but I got through that. BETH -In a way was it good for you to revisit after 16 years? Has it maybe given you some more closure or opened things in a different way? I am where I am. It's not as if the killers of my cameraman, Simon Cumbers, are still at large, they're all dead and buried. I'm lucky that the profession I have chosen is one that could continue after my injuries, with modifications.
It has been immensely frustrating not to be able to go to the kind of places that I would otherwise have done. So the Arab Spring in that erupted seven years after my injuries, I couldn't do it. I would have loved to have been there, right in the centre of Tahrir Square. This was like a second home to me. The BBC didn't send me, they couldn't send me.
There was constant flux in that crowd, it was dangerous at times, there was tear gas, there was shotgun pellets, it would have been no place for me in a wheelchair.
And besides, the live point was way up a load of stairs. But that was really tough, you know, my disability has massively affected, whatever people might think, it has hugely affected my ability to get on air in interesting places.
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FRANK -Yeah I feel slightly guilty about it, because I did promise my mother that I would not go back to Saudi while she was alive, and Cyat did it one year before she died, but it was too good an opportunity. I think that was a big form of closure for me. It was breaking the mould of going back, because I'd dreamt of going back to Saudi Arabia.
I'm actually… I know this is going to sound bizarre, I'm very fond of parts of Saudi Arabia and I've had enormous hospitality there. Yeah, there are some bad sides to it too, especially back then in Saudi Arabia is a much happier place now. There's no political freedom but there are a lot more social freedoms. There's entertainment, the cinema, women can drive. BETH -Did your mum mind that you had returned? She was grateful for that, she said, "Well, thank God I didn't know. Some of the surgeons who treated me on the night were still there.
A Swedish guy, Thunberg, he said, "You were brought in and you were the colour of my white coat. We filled you up with plasma and it just came out through the bullet holes, we didn't know how to stop it. We went to the Yemeni border and that was saaudi exciting, we flew in Blackhawk helicopters. We went to Jeddah and rode on the back of a pickup truck where they were playing Bob Marley and that was pretty strange. You know, I didn't think you could do that in Saudi, but every Friday afternoon they were allowed to do it.
There was one bad moment. We were in Najran, a town right on the Yemeni border and I needed to go to the loo and I went behind these trucks and while I was there, suddenly there was a screech of tyres, a shout and two shots. And Saydi thought, oh no, not again, I can't believe it. And what it was, was a shepherd arrived in his pickup truck, he was calling out to a friend and then his car backfired. But this time we did have an armed police escort and they were totally panicking and running around.
Where is he? BETH -The Middle East is so fond to you, and you've spent so much of your life there that with this attack in Saudi Arabia did it feel a bit like a betrayal? Even as I lay on the tarmac there with all these bullets inside me, bleeding internally, I remember thinking, this is so unfair. I have gone to such waudi to understand and empathise with the culture and the religion of swudi region and saidi reward for all of this, six bullets in the belly?
But I kind of sorted it out in my mind in the weeks that followed by understanding that the people who had attacked us were not representative of Saudi Arabia, these were fugitives from justice. They had murdered Muslims, they had orphaned people. BETH -You obviously still have a great love of the area. Saudi Arabia has had an Internet connection sincebut restricted its use to state academic, medical, and research institutions.
Saudi chatt and residents were free, however, to purchase computers and modems, could connect to the Internet through dial-up service to foreign ISPs, and launch web sites on foreign servers. Still, according to one estimate, some 30, Saudis were accessing the Internet in this fashion. Although state institutions were first connected to the Internet in and King Fahd had approved public Internet access init was not until January that local ISPs began connecting ordinary citizens.
This delay was due in large part to the self-proclaimed determination of authorities to establish a system for controlling the flow of information online. However, they made their intention to exercise control over Internet content clear in numerous press interviews. Saleh Abdulrahman Al-'Adhel, president of the KACST, said in February A standing committee has been formed and approved by the government to protect society from material on the Internet that violates Islam or encroaches on our traditions and culture.
This committee will determine which sites are immoral, such as pornographic sites and others, and will bar subscribers from entering such sites.
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There are many bad things on Internet. That is why we have created a mechanism to prevent such things from reaching our society so that a home subscriber to this service can be reassured. We have programs, software, and hardware that prevent the entry of sadi that corrupts or that harms our Muslim values, tradition, and culture. We also created a "fire wall" or barrier to prevent other quarters from breaching our sites.
That is why cyat have not rushed into providing this service.