As I shared in a previous ‘thought‘, I love BBC radio. One of my favourite programmes is Desert Island Discs, where each week a guest ‘castaway’ is interviewed about their life by the wonderfully. talented Kirsty Young. They are asked to choose eight records that they would take if they were cast away on a Desert Island. These are played during the programme the guest can choose one luxury item and a book as well. Those who appear are from various backgrounds and I love hearin their interesting life stories. One that has left a lasting impression with me was that of the surgeon, David Nott.
David Nott was introduced as one of the UKs top vascular surgeons who works in three NHS hospitals in the UK, who for over twenty years has volunteered to work in crisis war zones in places like Darfur, Sierra Leone, The Congo, Afghanistan and Syria. Working in a dangerous conditions with few medical supplies his life has been in danger many times. During the interview he describes some of the horrors he has seen and the people whose lives have almost certainly only been saved because he was there and willing to put his life on the line to save others.
A true hero
I consider David Nott to be a true hero because he suffered and he still suffers. He explains that after a ‘mission’ it takes him about three months to recover from the ordeal during which time he feels angry and suffers from Post Traumatic Distress. In particular during 2014 he was terribly affected. Ten days after arriving back in the UK from Aleppo he was presented the OBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. One can only imagine what the contrast must have been, leaving an environment where he life was imperil to the surreal reality of sitting next to her Majesty having lunch. He found it difficult to speak and the Queen, sensing his distress invited him to join her to feed her Corgis with broken biscuits. He says this helped him enormously and I think shows a wonderful understanding and empathy from the Queen. However, there was one particular story that really resonated with me and that I think offers a lesson for us all.
Whilst working in Gaza, David came to the conclusion that it was inevitable that he would be killed whilst carrying out his volunteer work. Prior to this trip he had met Ellie at a charity event and thought that she was nice. Thinking about her again whist in Gaza he thought, ” I’m not going to survive this, I think I’ll send her an email” and he did. This led to a meeting when he got back to the UK and they spent the next three weeks together before he left again to go to Syria. In the interview he tries to explain what Ellie means to him but is overcome with emotion. Instead he chooses the music Claire de Lune to represent his feelings. They are now married and have had a baby.
I’m sure many people who listened to this programme would have thought as I did, but what if he hadn’t emailed?! What a wasted opportunity and unnecessary loss of happiness! Isn’t it interesting that a man, so brave and courageous who puts himself literally on the front line would have considered sending an email to be so risky that he only did it when faced the real possibility of dying. It is understandable to feel fear in a war-torn city but what risk is there in sending an email to someone you like – rejection.
I don’t think he is odd, I think that many of us have the same tendencies and shy away from things that may make us vulnerable. We can never know the cost of avoiding these opportunities because we will never discover what they were. I will remember David Nott whenever I think twice about taking a risk where the only casualty can be my feelings.
Research has shown that people who are dying in hospices tend to regret things they didn’t do far more than they regret the things they did. David Nott, a man who faced different kinds of fear and found the courage to persist.
I like happy endings 🙂
It would make a great film!
Please note: I am an early riser and frequently wake up with thoughts and questions on my mind. I write them down and record them in these short unedited, un-researched, unscientific bits of writing. They are written in a half asleep hypnopompic state and should not be regarded as anything more than what they are – random thoughts and musings. For sensible subjects and writing please visit Positive Psychology Learning website