For more than 25 years, the NHS surgeon has volunteered in conflict zones from Sarajevo to Syria. In this extract from his book War Doctor, he recounts some of his most gruelling experiences
I have travelled the world for 25 years in search of trouble. It is a kind of addiction, a pull I find hard to resist. It stems partly from the desire to use my knowledge as a surgeon to help people who are experiencing the worst that humanity can throw at them, and partly from the thrill of just being in those terrible places, of living in a liminal zone where most people have neither been nor want to go: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Chad, Liberia, Iraq, Libya, Haiti, Gaza and Syria, to mention a few.
Going to all those places has changed me, but none more profoundly than Syria. It was in Syria that I began to get seriously angry about the inability of the major powers to prevent hospitals and medical staff being targeted in war zones; in Syria that I realised I must begin seriously to collate and share the knowledge I had acquired over my career to help other doctors; and after Syria that post-traumatic stress disorder finally tipped me over the edge.