“This photo was taken at last year’s Pride Of Britain Awards and the man I am hugging is David Nott. David was on stage receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for all of the work he has done as a surgeon in war zones over the last 25 years or so.
One of David’s most recent heroic acts took place in Syria in the middle of all the bombing.
He was operating on a little girl when suddenly a warning went out and everyone was ordered to leave the hospital as it was due to be targeted by an air strike. David, who refused to leave the girl to die, was accompanied by a Red Cross anaesthetist. He asked the anaesthetist, ‘Do you want to go?’ He replied, ‘No, I’ll stay with you.’
So all three believed that they would die that day, but nothing happened and all three survived.
Another incident in Syria saw David carry out an operation on an IS fighter. While they were operating, seven IS fanatics burst into his theatre. David’s Syrian colleague, also a surgeon, told him not to open his mouth otherwise they would kill him if they knew he was British.
They were talking and shouting and lingered for 20 minutes with their guns on the floor, then finally left after they realised David had saved the man on the operating theatre. I
t doesn’t get any more terrifying than those stories but that’s the measure of David.
In the background of the photo we have the journalist Mark Austin and Tom Jones.
Most of the awards are chosen by the judges and I am one of them, however, two or three are chosen externally. Lifetime Achievement was one of those. I was only told a week before that David Nott had won and I knew I recognised his name… And yes, of course, he operated on me in 2002.
At the time I had a problem with my gallbladder, which had been going on for about three years – it’s the most painful thing. Forget childbirth, that’s a walk in the park compared to a gallstone. One Thursday it started grumbling again and, by Friday, I was in a lot of pain.
I was in agony by Saturday and said to my then partner you have to get me to hospital.
I was rushed to A&E at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and luckily for me David Nott was on duty.
He took me straight upstairs, told me I wasn’t very well and it was my gallbladder. I then had a difficult six-hour operation.
Now cut to the night before the Pride Of Britain Awards before this photo was taken. All the winners have a dinner for themselves and their families and I met David and his wife. I asked him if he remembered operating on me, and he said, ‘Yes I do remember, you had sepsis.
When I saw you in A&E I thought you had four to six hours to live.’ I was in total shock. I had no idea.
How lucky was I that he was there to recognise it because it acts as fast as meningitis. Only recently the sepsis word has become more common. Every 3.5 seconds someone dies of it in the world. It is treatable with antibiotics but it has to be recognised.
I just wanted to thank him and my children wanted to thank him who were only five and 10 when it happened in 2002.
So on stage I said a 20-second thank you and cried, and David just gave me a big hug. He has now set up the David Nott Foundation, which trains surgeons to carry out his work in war zones and London hospitals.
He has also operated on the likes of Tony Blair when he had a heart problem, because he specialises in keyhole surgery.
This is the 19th Pride Of Britain Awards and I have presented all of them from 1999. I always tell the winners this night is about you. This year so much tragedy has gone on and it will be emotional. It’s one of those events that touches a lot of souls.
And I feel very lucky when I look at this photo. There are not many like David, who has saved thousands of lives. He is utterly selfless.
A lot of winners are like that and you feel the world is a better place when you have been around them.”
The Pride Of Britain Awards is on ITV at 8pm on Tuesday.