It was a night of tears, cheers and a Brexit putdown for Prime Minister Theresa May.
But amid all the accounts of bravery and heroism, there was a quite unexpected story involving Pride of Britain host Carol Vorderman.
As she congratulated London surgeon David Nott for his fearless work in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones, Vorderman revealed that he had also saved her life.
The presenter struggled to contain her emotions as she hugged Nott on stage, just 24 hours after meeting him for the first time since he performed emergency surgery on her in hospital 12 years ago.
Nott confirmed to RT after the ceremony – broadcast on ITV1 tonight (Tuesday) – that Vorderman’s life had indeed hung in the balance when she arrived in hospital suffering from sepsis.
“She was very, very ill,” he told us. “Had we not operated when we did she could have died – very easily have died.”
Vorderman had become seriously ill after her gall bladder became infected and sepsis set in. She was admitted to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and spent five hours in theatre undergoing emergency surgery. “We just got her at the right time, but it was still a very difficult operation,” said Nott.
Asked what he made of Vorderman’s very grateful on-stage embrace (watch above) he said: “I think for the patient it is a different experience than for the surgeon. For the surgeon when you operate on someone who is very sick it is pure anxiety. But for the patient it’s life changing.”
Vorderman admitted to RT after the show that her meeting with Nott on stage, and the previous evening at a winners’ dinner, had been very emotional for her. ”I had wanted to thank him, but of course you never know quite how you are going to react. It was just a hug of enormous gratitude.”
She recalled the events that had led up to the emergency surgery 12 years ago.
“I had had gallstones for some time. But this particular bout was really bad. And it was just getting worse and worse – the pain was excruciating. I felt that I was losing it, but that was obviously the sepsis.
“I had no idea at the time just how ill I was. The surgeon doesn’t say to a patient, ‘You were five hours from dying’. But that’s what he told me later at the checkup. And that was a bit of a shock.”
Nott’s special recognition award honoured his work in conflict zones around the world over the past 23 years. He works for the NHS at three different London hospitals to maintain an expertise in diverse surgical areas and takes unpaid leave every year to treat the sick and injured in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
“Sometimes I’m a plastic surgeon, sometimes I’m an obstetrician. It depends what the need is,” he told us. “At the moment the greatest need is post-injury plastic surgery, which I was doing recently in northern Syria.”
As ever, the awards ceremony was an occasion of high emotion as the great and the good – from Prince Charles and Theresa May to Simon Cowell and Take That – honoured those recipients of Pride of Britain awards.
But it was Professor Stephen Hawking who provided the evening’s biggest laugh. In presenting Hawking with a lifetime achievement award Prime Minister May described him as “quite simply one of the most inspirational scientists of our time.”
Hawking, in a pre-programmed response, said: “I deal with mathematical problems every day, but don’t ask me to help with Brexit.”