Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: chathamhouse / Flickr
Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: chathamhouse / Flickr

Being a doctor isn’t easy, especially if you work in war-torn Syria.

In addition to facing the daily beats of war, physicians there face a government that tortures and bombs medical personnels. As a result, physicians can only move and work via an underground network of hospitals set up by N.G.O.s throughout Syria.

Dr. David Nott is one such physician. In an elaborate profile by the New Yorker, the magazine describes how Dr. Nott often has to treat an entire family if a bomb falls on their house. In one espeicially horrific case, Nott describes treating a family where he witnessed a “baby with no feet let out a stifled cry, then died.” In the next room, a bloody toddler “shouted the name of his dying brother,” while two other medical workers treated his missing pelvis. He wiped away some white blobs on his face, only to discover the white blobs were “pieces of [his sister’s] brain”.

Needless to say that after witnessing such butchery, it’s difficult to convey the scene with words. When Dr. Nott was later invited to the Buckingham Palace to speak with the Queen of England, words failed him. Queen Elizabeth II handled it with care:

Then the Queen turned to him, he explained that he had just returned from Syria. “How was it?” she asked. “I tried to play it light, and I said it was absolutely dreadful,” he told me. The Queen pressed for details, but he couldn’t bring himself to tell her, and his bottom lip began quivering. At that point, “she summoned the corgis,” he said. For the next twenty minutes, Nott and the Queen petted the dogs and fed them biscuits under the table. As the lunch came to a close, he says, she remarked, “That’s much better than talking, isn’t it?”

For his brave work in the Syrian war zones, the Queen awarded Dr. Nott the title of “Officer of the Order of the British Empire.”

You can read the entire account of Dr. Nott and other medical personnel’s works in the New Yorker.