I bought this book today and am enjoying it. quoting a review from "The Guardian"
"In late 1993, the surgeon David Nott travelled from his home in London to a hospital in war-torn Sarajevo on his first humanitarian mission. Two weeks into the trip, a teenage boy was brought in with a metal fragment in his abdomen, sustained from one of the mortars that had been raining down on the city for days. He was anaesthetised and taken to an operating theatre where Nott set about opening his abdomen to inspect the damage. After making the incision, he heard an enormous crash and the lights went out. The hospital had taken a direct hit, leaving him in the dark trying to stem the bleeding by squeezing the boy’s aorta while pressing down on a swab. When the lights eventually flickered back on, Nott realised he was all alone. The rest of the team – an anaesthetist, a scrub nurse and an assistant – had fled the room and taken cover in the basement. The boy, meanwhile, had died.
In War Doctor, Nott’s account of 25 years dispensing life-saving treatment in some of the most dangerous places in the world, he describes his fury at having been abandoned, though later he comes to understand his colleagues’ actions. “This experience taught me two things,” he explains. “First, I’d have to toughen up; second, I also had to take care of myself. Not just because there was no one else there who was going to do that for me, but because I wouldn’t be helping anyone if I was dead.”
We’re hardly short of books by doctors describing difficult work carried out in straitened circumstances – think Rachel Clarke’s Your Life in My Hands or Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt – but Nott’s is something else entirely. Where most people strive to avoid trouble, he actively goes in search of it. “It is a kind of addiction,” he says in the prologue, “a pull I find hard to resist.” His stories of courage and compassion in the face of seemingly certain death are breathtaking. There’s the time, for instance, that Syrian jihadis stormed the makeshift hospital in which he was working after spotting him on the roof with a camera. Assuming he was photographing their movements, they were poised to drag him away but were persuaded not to on realising that the camera contained pictures of sunsets. Or there’s the moment he and his head nurse were driven to meet Mullah Omar, the feared Taliban leader, to secure permission to operate on a young Afghan woman who was haemorrhaging after childbirth. “His manner was serene, almost statesman-like,” Nott recalls. “I think just to get rid of us, he agreed to our request.”
His reflections on why he does what he does are compelling in a different way. Why would he so willingly put himself in the path of danger? Part of it, he says, is altruism – a simple desire to save lives and put his skills in general and vascular surgery to the best possible use. However, his first trip to Sarajevo reveals another reason. There, while travelling with a patient in an ambulance across the city, the vehicle was targeted by a sniper. Nott, the patient and the driver survived but the porter travelling with them died from bullet wounds to the chest, neck and face. Nott describes how his shock at the attack was followed by relief at having escaped death. But then he observes another feeling: “I felt elated, exhilarated, euphoric. I had never felt more alive; it was as if I had been reborn … If I could cope with this, I thought, I could cope with anything.”"