Outlook Issue 27 Spring 2019
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Good read
War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line by Dr David Nott OBE, OStJ, FRCS Picador, February 2019 It may be hard to understand why someone would put their life at risk to go and work voluntarily in war zones, places of unspeakable deprivation, heartache and danger. Yet time after time David Nott (pictured) has answered the call of Médecins Sans Frontières and of the International Red Cross, taking unpaid leave from his NHS job as a consultant surgeon in London, to help those affected by conflict and catastrophe usually way beyond their control. This book briefly covers his Welsh roots, early family history and what led him into surgery. Then we visit with him all the major conflicts from Bosnia and Afghanistan in the 1990s to Gaza, Yemen and Syria in recent years. We hear about specific and often horrendous injuries; endless deaths; some remarkable surgical achievements; and his own narrow escapes from death. He writes honestly about his failures, loneliness, doubts and psychological breakdown, as well as the exhilaration of survival amidst such danger, the dullness of ‘normal’ life back home and his life-long love of flying. In this heady mixture are also some beautiful descriptions: the support and love he receives from a colleague in Syria who becomes like a brother to him; stealing across a devastated Aleppo to be blessed and receive Communion from a priest; the Queen’s compassionate response to his trauma-induced inability to speak when he sat beside her at a lunch; and falling in love aged 58, marrying and having two children. Throughout the book Nott describes his crucial role in training others in trauma surgery. With his wife Elly this has now been expanded through The David Nott Foundation (www.davidnottfoundation.com), a UK registered charity for training medical professionals operating in austere and hostile environments worldwide. It’s hard to do justice to this powerful book in a short review, but I urge you to read it. There is no doubt that David Nott is remarkable, a man full of altruistic goodness, drive, and with a vision for a better world. Alison Wintgens