Fearless Frank: the 89-year-old abseiler
One would be forgiven for expecting most 89-year-olds to be living the quiet life, perhaps doing the odd spot of gardening or reading a newspaper with their feet up.
But not this one! Great-grandfather, Frank, now 90, took on the monumental challenge of abseiling down the side of St Thomas’ Hospital last year to raise money for Guy’s and St Thomas’, so he could say thanks for the care he’s received over the years.
Frank’s first experience of the hospitals was in 1944, when he was treated for tuberculosis aged just 14 years old.
‘Back then, a lot of people died of TB,’ says Frank. ‘I was in the hospital for two and a half years, but I was one of the lucky ones.
‘They looked after me all those years ago and I’m still under their care now.’
Frank, a grandfather to four and great-grandfather to six, is now a patient of Lane Fox Respiratory Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital. He decided to do the abseil to give something back to the staff who have been there for him for 74 years.
'I’ve been coming here for so long now and the doctors and nurses are all great,’ he says. ‘They don’t keep you waiting, they keep me informed and I’m able to have a bit of a laugh with them too.’
As they’re his local hospitals, Frank has always supported Guy’s and St Thomas’ - but the abseil was his most daring challenge yet!
The adventurous streak clearly runs in the family, as it was when Frank was watching one of his grandchildren skydive that his own courageous character was ignited. ‘As I saw him coming down on his parachute I thought, I want to have a go at that,’ says Frank.
As well as the abseil, Frank has also done a 100-foot-high zip line on London’s Southbank, and he has even bigger plans for the future.
‘I want to do a wing walk – where you’re strapped to the wing of a plane in flight. That’s the next thing to tick off the bucket list.
‘Whenever there’s a do I’m the first one on the dancefloor and usually the last one to leave!’ says Frank. ‘I live for today. Anything going, I’ll do it.’
Frank’s fantastic fundraising
Frank joined over 400 others to take on St Thomas’ Abseil in May 2019. He raised an incredible £410 for Guy’s and St Thomas’, which staff are incredibly grateful for.
‘I was delighted and hugely grateful to hear that Mr Clark kindly agreed to abseil down St Thomas’ to raise funds for the Trust,’ says Dr Eui-Sik Suh, consultant respiratory physician at Lane Fox Respiratory Service. ‘He is a man with an immense zest for life, and one for whom advancing age means little.
‘I am unsurprised that, in taking part in the abseiling challenge, he is finding yet another opportunity to serve his community, something that I know he has done for many years. He certainly displays far more courage than his doctor.’
The St Thomas’ Abseil takes place every year, where hundreds of fundraising thrill-seekers descend 160ft down the side of the hospital to raise money for Guy’s, St Thomas’ and Evelina London Children’s Hospital. Now in its fifth year, the 2020 event takes place on Friday 5 June. Participants can expect an adrenaline rush of a lifetime, along with stunning views across the River Thames, looking out at Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and The London Eye.
There’s also an extra reason to celebrate this year, with 2020 being International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. There are hundreds of highly skilled nurses and midwives at Guy’s and St Thomas’ who show unwavering dedication to their patients, so we’ll be proudly honouring their hard work and commitment at the abseil event.
Registration to take part is now open, so if you think you’ve got what it takes to join our team of amazing abseilers then what are you waiting for? As Frank says, ‘You only have one life, so you might as well live it.’
Would you like to show your support for Guy’s and St Thomas’ like Frank has? Join the 2020 abseil team by signing up here.
Lead image: Frank on the roof, dressed and ready to abseil down the side of St Thomas', May 2019