Abseiling great-grandfather lives life on the wild side

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Frank Clark

An 89-year-old great-grandfather is set to take on an unbelievable fundraising feat – abseiling 160 feet down the front of St Thomas’ Hospital.

Thrill-seeker Frank Clark, from Southwark in south London, will take on the challenge to raise money for Guy’s and St Thomas’, having been treated at both hospitals throughout his life.

In 1944 when he was 14 years old, Frank contracted tuberculosis and was treated at Guy’s Hospital. He said: “Back then, a lot of people died of TB. 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.

Now a patient of Lane Fox Respiratory Unit at St Thomas’ Hospital, Frank is taking on the abseil to give something back to the staff who have been there for him for 74 years.

Frank, a grandfather to four and great-grandfather to six, said: “I’ve been coming here for so long now and the doctors and nurses are all great. 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 a result of his experiences as a child, Frank has an incredibly positive outlook to life and believes age is no barrier to living life to the full. He said: “I live for today. Anything going, I’ll do it.

“Whenever there’s a do I’m the first one on the dancefloor and usually the last one to leave! You only have one life, so you might as well live it.”

Frank’s taste for the extreme began after seeing one of his grandchildren sky dive. He said: “As I saw him coming down on his parachute I thought, I want to have a go at that”.

Frank awakened the adrenaline junkie in him last year by completing a 100 foot high zip line on London’s Southbank. Though the abseil is still a few weeks away, he’s already planning his next big adventure.

The 89-year-old said: “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”.

Despite understandable trepidation, Frank’s daughter Rita Kearney couldn’t be more proud of her father’s incredible achievement. She said: “I definitely couldn’t do it. I think it’s amazing what he’s doing. He’s so independent and I never have to worry about him. His daredevil streak hasn’t rubbed off on me, but his positive outlook on life has.”

Frank has channelled his positivity into creating a social club in his local area. Frank’s Club is a weekly meet-up for retired men as part of Blackfriars Settlement, which provides an array of services to the community.

The great-grandfather said: “There was a few similar things for women going on, but nothing for the men. So we meet up every Monday to play darts, cards, table tennis, dominos – anything the members want to do I try and sort out.” As part of Blackfriars Settlement, Frank is also part of the Nightingales choir, who perform at care homes and community events and have even appeared at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Dr Eui-Sik Suh, consultant respiratory physician at Lane Fox Respiratory Service, said: “I was delighted and hugely grateful to hear that Mr Clark kindly agreed to abseil down St Thomas’ to raise funds for the Trust. 

“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. Good luck!”

On Friday 10 May, Frank will join hundreds of other courageous thrill-seekers to take on the St Thomas Abseil – an annual challenge that raises vital funds for Guy’s, St Thomas and Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

St Thomas’ Abseil is an annual challenge that raises vital funds for Guy’s Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital and Evelina London Children’s Hospital. With a record breaking 400 people already signed up, this year’s event is set to be the biggest yet.

Now in its fifth year, the abseil takes place on one of London’s most iconic hospital buildings, looking out onto the River Thames, with views of Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and The London Eye. Donated funds raised through the abseil help the hospitals go above and beyond what the NHS can support.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity raises money for big things and small touches that make our life-saving care even better and help our patients and their families feel really looked after. For more information on fundraising visit the Guy's and St Thomas' charity website.

You can help Frank reach his fundraising target by visiting his Virgin Money giving page.

Last updated: March 2022

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