Frank Gardner had to be evacuated from Papua New Guinea while filming a BBC documentary after being told he could have developed life-threatening sepsis.
The BBC Security Correspondent was in a remote location when he discovered two pressure sores which were at risk of serious infection and considered to be potentially life threatening.
Gardner was in the middle of filming the programme for BBC2 where he hoped to fulfil a lifelong ambition to see Birds of Paradise when the trip had to be cut short.
The journalist and author said: “I could not believe it when the medical advice came over the radio: you’re going to have to be evacuated to Australia.
“Apart from this nasty jungle sore on my backside I was fine. I even did some pull-ups out of my chair on the wooden beam in our hut. But they were adamant. If I had stayed there a day longer then there’s a risk it could have turned into sepsis, which can be fatal, and they may not have been able to get me out in time.”
Gardner, who was injured in 2004 after being shot multiple times by terrorists in Saudi Arabia, was over halfway through a three-week expedition to the highlands of Papua New Guinea for the BBC documentary. “This is so much more than just going to see a bird,” he said. “This is in a way a form of closure to my injuries.”
He was being carried across a mountain range in a make-shift sedan chair instead of using his wheelchair when he initially found a 10-centimetre ulcer.
Expedition medic David Osborne found that there was an open canker where the skin has opened up and warned that any infection could lead to blood poisoning, which could kill Gardner within 48 hours.
Initially reluctant to leave, the 55-year-old noticed a second sore the next day. Following advice from doctors, Gardner was medivaced out and was flown to Brisbane, Australia.
He was found to have a Category 3 wound – almost open down to the muscle – and he was treated for five days at the St Andrews War Memorial hospital.
The incident occurred in June 2016, and four months later Gardner and writer and adventurer Benedict Allen (pictured above), who had been doing the trip with him, returned to resume the expedition.
“I am going to do things differently,” said Gardner. “To be medevaced once from Papua New Guinea is acceptable, to be medevaced twice is not going to look good on the resume.”
Birds of Paradise: The Ultimate Quest starts at 9pm on Friday February 3 on BBC2.