The Welsh born consultant surgeon volunteers for several weeks every year to work in disaster and war zones.
Nott described what it is like going into a war zone; “You’re in a car and you’re being driven at break neck speed… it’s very very very exciting and of course to get to the people that you want to help you have to take an enormous risk”.
He also said how immensely difficulty it was travelling into Aleppo through Islamic State checkpoints. He said “I’d never before seen a man with a black hood on his head with lots of bullets all around him, an AK47, looking in at our vehicle”.
He described to the audience how he once inadvertently operated on a member of Islamic State. He recalled how the IS chief came into the operating room and told Nott that the patient on the table was his brother. He said, “I went into a total panic mode, I realised that if he died we were all going to be taken out”.
Interviewer, Rosie Boycott, questioned him about how he felt knowing that he had saved a member of Islamic State, someone who could go on to bomb and kill many other civilians and children. His response was that as a “humanitarian” doctor, you have to treat the human being in front of you.
He admitted to the audience that he knows his work is risky. He said “going to Aleppo could have been suicidal…it was an amazing thing to have been able to do but a crazy thing to have done also”.
He said he hasn’t been left unscathed by all he has seen. He admitted to suffering PTSD in the form of psychotic episodes, and he has now set up a foundation with his wife Elly to help train up other surgeons to work on the front line.
Picture by Sam Hardwick.
If you are interested in more talks like this, please see Event 249 at 10am on Thursday 30 May.
If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers.