Conflict & Justice

How can you help in Syria? Here's one doctor's story

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Dr. David Nott at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London.

Credit:

Leo Hornak

British vascular surgeon David Nott just came back from Syria, where he volunteered to help other doctors.

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He's a surgeon at a hospital in London, but for a few weeks each year, he travels to some of the most dangerous places in the world. Nott doesn't want to reveal where in Syria he worked, only that he was in "a northern town on the frontlines." 

“I was only there for five weeks, but it went by like two days”, he says. “I was working 18 hours a day, sometimes with only four hours of sleep at night.”

The town where he worked had 5,000 doctors before the war. Now, he says, there are only 36. And the type of patients he saw reveals a lot about the atmosphere in Syria.

Nott says he dealt with people hurt in air strikes now and again, but most of the wounds he and the other doctors dealt with every day were from sniper fire. And those wounded are mainly civilians.

"I'm sure that snipers were having a game," he says. "Some days, we would have many necks wounds. Some days, we would have only groin wounds. Some days, we would have only chest wounds. And to me it seemed that... various parts of the anatomy where being targeted." 

He says he asked other doctors about it. "I was told that there are 72 snipers in this city at the moment... and it's a game and they are getting packets of cigarettes and things for targetting as many people in the anatomical region as they can."

Nott says it is hard to get other doctors to join him in these trips. But he notes that help for the Syrian doctors is also coming via an unusual route. Syrian expat doctors in the US are consulting with the Syrian doctors over Skype on cases. "There's an awful lot of help given from the Syrian-American Medical Society, who are doing a great job, I must say."