The most evocative page of the BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner's updated memoir Blood & Sand is one that even readers with acute 20-20 vision would probably need a magnifying glass to read. It's the then confidential medical report from the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh the day after the bullet-riddled Gardner -- after undergoing preliminary life-saving surgery -- was rushed to another hospital after being ambushed with his cameraman Simon Cumbers by terrorists on June 6 , 2004. Cumbers did not survive.
It's not that Gardner is trying to prevent readers from making out the words, and has nothing to do withy the age-old complaint about some doctors' illegible handwriting - but the document, with tightly typed text, is used simply as an illustration in the photo section of the book.
It doesn't beat about the bush:
NAME OF PATIENT: FRANK GARDNER it begins. MEDICAL RECORD NUMBER: 782848.
DATE OF BIRTH: 07/01/1960 (incorrect, as it happens - it sould have said 31/7/1961)
HISTORY: This is a 43-year-old male who was admitted to this hospital on 07 June 2004...the patient was shot multiple times ...and was admitted to the Iman hospital where he was taken to the operating room. I was asked to come and see the patient there for possible retrieval...We decided on damage control...the patient had a temperature of 30 º. He was hypovolemic (in severe shock caused by loss of blood) and was oozing from all cut surfaces.
Gardner was transferred to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital just after midnight where his condition, after further emergency treatment, mercifully stabilised. And lived to write this book.
Even during his grimmest hours, the black humour is not forgotten. "At one point a figure loomed towards me with a Russian name on his white hospital coat" he writes. " 'Lobotomy?' he said, in a deadpan voice but with a thick Slavic accent. 'Sorry, what?'
" 'I come for lobotomy' he repeated. This had to be either a joke or another blasted morphine dream. 'I think you've got the wrong patient' I croaked. He glanced down at his clipboard. 'You are Mr Gardner, no? Date of birth 1961?'
"This was no longer funny. 'Yes, but...what did you say you're here for?'
"'Phlebotomy. Blood test.'"
Back in London after being flown to hospital in England, Gardner meets his daughters, Melissa and Sasha for the first time since being shot. He worries that he "must be a startling sight". He writes: "I had not shaved since the day of the attack, and I must have looked like a ragged porcupine with all those tubes sprouting out of me."
At one stage "only a very thin bright-pink membrane covered my intestines, which coiled and uncoiled themselves beneath it like snake slowly digesting its lunch " he says. "It was all too reminiscent of that scene in Alien where the monster bursts out of John Hurt's abdomen."
By now Gardner was beginning to realise how serious his injuries were. "I asked the lead neurosurgeon what my chances of walking again were" he writes. "'If I were a betting man,' he said, 'I'd say you probably won't walk again'. That was a black day....What really depressed me was the sensation I felt for the first time of having two dead logs for legs."
No wonder he has little time for the clinical psychologist who asks him: "Why are you here, exactly?"
He tells her :"Um...it's all in the notes."
To which she replies: "Well, I haven't read those. Was it a car accident?"
Gardner writes : "If this woman couldn't be bothered to find anything out in advance about her next patient, then I certainly didn't feel like baring my soul to her."
On a more cheerful note, there were presents from visitors. "Jo Cayford, a BBC producer friend just back from Moscow, brought me one of those wooden matryoshka dolls, except that instead of being the usual stout, red-cheeked babushka it was Osama Bin Laden" he says. "I unscrewed it and there inside was a smaller wooden doll of the Taliban's Mullah Omar; inside him was Saddam Hussein; then Ayatollah Khomeini; and finally the smallest doll of all was Yasser Arafat."
Later, just out of hospital, during a visit to an Indian restaurant, he's told by a waiter: "I must tell you sir, that we don't have disabled access to toilets on this floor." At that moment, says Gardner, it hit him. "Of course. Disabled. That's me now."
And on a family outing to the London Wetland Centre with friends and daughters, "I sat in my wheelchair, unable to join in their chasing games." He writes: "Whereas before I would have whirled them round or plopped them up on my shoulders, now I could only watch from the side, feeling like a passive grandparent out for a spin in the park. I thought, I'm 43, I'm not ready for this."
When he gave his first radio interview since the attack, to John Humphrys, listeners somehow got the impression that the wheelchair was temporary.
"Cards and letters started to come in congratulating me on my 'full recovery'" he says. "'No!' I felt like screaming. 'You don't understand! I'm paraplegic, disabled, crippled for life. I need to make that clear.'
"On Christmas Day my parents came up to join us and we raised a toast to survival, but when we went for the traditional walk after lunch I realised that in my wheelchair I was finding it hard to keep up with my parents who were nearly twice my age...
"At the risk of sounding morbid, so many of the things I enjoyed have been taken away - jogging along the Thames towpath with friends...rollerblading with my daughters, chasing them through the park and showing them how to climb trees, and trekking through jungles, deserts and mountains."
Gardner, whose wife Amanda encouraged him not to hate his wheelchair but not to be defined by it either, often stands up with the use of callipers (leg braces) beneath his trousers and gets about without it by using a frame.
He got Into TV journalism late, at the age of 34, in 1995, after "losing all interest in banking" which he'd at one stage excelled in during a long stint in Bahrain.
He quickly became established as a BBC TV reporter, although as a freelance in his early years. Mostly he coped well with what were often stressful and distressing situations, sometimes involving what was tantamount to war reporting. But even he was profoundly affected by the kidnapping of 19 western tourists in Yemen in December 1998, when four tourists, a police officer and two kidnappers were killed in a bloodbath. "I braced myself for one of the hardest assignments of my career" he writes. "I now had to interview the British survivors of the ordeal, some of whom had lost loved ones."
Later that night, in the privacy of his hotel room, he "cried and cried." He writes: "I did not usually allow myself to get emotionally involved in the stories I was covering, but I think everyone has their breaking point."