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'I had seen dozens of people die horrible deaths ... This time was different. This time it was a friend of mine dying in the dirt in front of me, and it was my job to save him.'
Dr Dan Pronk served on over 100 combat missions in Afghanistan as a frontline special forces combat doctor, where the casualties he treated were his fellow SAS soldiers and commandos, local civilians and even the enemy.
The thrill of adventure and the challenges of battlefield medicine brought out the very best in Dan; he discovered a sense of purpose in pushing his medical skills and courage to the limits. But there was a cost.
In this frank and vivid memoir, Dan describes the highs and lows of his military-medical career, and the very real toll they took on his mental health and family life. He writes movingly about the burden of saving - and failing to save - friends and comrades, the feelings of helplessness and despair that haunted him, and the journey back to a meaningful and fulfilling civilian life.
The Combat Doctor is an extraordinary story of resilience and growth, and a tribute to the doctors and medics working behind-the-scenes in conflict around the world.
Praise for The Combat Doctor
'I love Dan's insight from his beginnings as an everyday guy, who pushes himself into operating in a very, very non-everyday environment. A fascinating account of what it is like to go into battle, and the unseen mental battles that arise from the experience. Honest and inspiring. I loved it.' - Hamish Blake
'Dr Pronk walks us to the very gates of hell and points to the nightmare that is modern warfare. The thrall of combat, the dread of buried mines, and the shattered bodies of his mates all feature in this parallel universe that was Australia's war in Afghanistan. This is not some well-worn trope of heroism in war - it brings to life the ghosts of Australia's best fighters: their grit, their humour, and their final moments. These fallen sons both haunted and inspired Dan to live a complete life. A searing story: unforgettable and important.' - Mark Wales
'Beyond the headlines, popular imagery and mythology of SAS and Commandos, are stories of duty and devotion to one another. The Combat Doctor is both a participant and an observer - of skill, courage, death and growth from the traumatic aftermath of war. Step out of your comfort zone, accept the challenge to a better person.' - Dr Brendan Nelson
'Dr Dan Pronk transports the reader into the boots and under the combat helmet of Special Forces in a way few writers can. The idea of a fully armed doctor engaging with an enemy to potentially take life and then within seconds fighting to save one is an incredibly unique perspective. Dan's memoir of his time as a combat doctor, saving lives and at times losing them in the midst of battle, offers a rare, heartfelt perspective of the best, bravest and worst of humanity - but one we all benefit from hearing. ' - Merrick Watts
'Dan gives us an uncensored look into the darkest sides of combat and a raw, personal account of events that have become legend in the Special Forces world. An open, frank look into the mind of the doctor you want by your side when the unthinkable happens.' - Damien Thomlinson