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Dr David Nott, who grew up in Norden, received a Special Recognition Award at the Pride of Britain Awards.
Every year for the past 23 years, Dr Nott has taken several months’ unpaid leave from his NHS job in London to work as a volunteer for aid agencies including Médecins Sans Frontières, the Red Cross and Syria Relief.
He has carried out lifesaving operations on victims of conflict and catastrophe in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Chad, Darfur, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Central African Republic, Gaza and Nepal.
In Aleppo, scene of the most devastating civilian and child injuries in the Syrian conflict, Dr Nott worked in a makeshift hospital, saving lives as barrel bombs rained down above him.
The conflict surgeon has operated using makeshift instruments, by torchlight, and in constant fear for his own life.
He has refused to stop operating when IS fanatics burst into his theatre in Syria and when he was ordered to leave a hospital in the Gaza Strip which was due to be targeted by an air strike.
Dr Nott, 59, recalls: “Everyone was leaving but I knew I couldn’t possibly leave this little girl alone. I said to the Red Cross anaesthetist who was with me, ‘do you want to go?’ He said, ‘no, I’ll stay with you’. So we stayed together, both believing that all three of us would die.
“I carried on with the operation, and as the minutes ticked by, I tried not to panic.
“I was expecting the worst, but I kept on operating. We were supposed to be blown up, and I was thinking, ‘if it happens, I’ve done a lot with my life really.’
“If our time was up, I just wanted to be there to hold the little girl’s hand.”
Dr Nott made three trips to opposition-held Aleppo between 2013 and 2014, despite regime forces targeting medical sites, but the carnage affected him more than any other conflict, and it took him months to re-adjust after returning home from the visits.
“It’s such a tragedy I can’t find the words,” he said.
Dr Nott began his humanitarian work in 1993, flying to Bosnia after seeing the conflict on the news.
“I’d seen a man on TV crying as he searched for his daughter among the rubble after a bomb blast in Sarajevo.” he said.
“I made a snap decision. I was overwhelmed by the necessity to help.”
Since then he has set up the David Nott Foundation, a UK-registered charity training surgeons to carry on his work, which he fits in around performing surgical roles at three London hospitals and raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charitable causes.
The married father-of-one was awarded an OBE for his medical work in war zones during the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2012.
Dr Nott is also a qualified pilot and has served with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force as a volunteer surgeon, holding the rank of Wing Commander. However, his biggest contribution will last well beyond his own work, in the shape of the training programme that prepares and equips medics to save countless lives in war and natural disaster zones.
He added: “It’s the legacy I am trying to leave.
“To be a war surgeon is a fine art, knowing the right thing to do for a patient with what’s available. If you do too much, that patient will die as surely as if you do too little.”