McLean Stevenson stopped and dressed an open wound after a car accident

Studying medical texts for M*A*S*H helped him remember how to pinch off an artery until the real medical professionals arrived.

"Can we stop with the chatter?" Frank Burns complains in the first season M*A*S*H episode "Sticky Wicket". "It’s distracting."

"Especially when you don’t know what you’re doing," Hawkeye fires back.

The thrust of this episode finds Frank and Hawkeye at odds, questioning each other’s surgical abilities, and as their Lt. Colonel, it’s up to Henry Blake to make sure the conflict between the surgeons doesn’t impact any of the patients under their unit’s care.

On M*A*S*H, Henry Blake was known for being a more capable doctor than a leader, but the one thing he always saw to, amid all the hobbies he kept in his downtime, was that the hospital always ran smoothly.

To him, surgery was serious business.

McLean Stevenson, who played Henry Blake, took this side of his character very seriously, and according to his castmate Alan Alda, he studied books on medicine just like most of the other people involved in the hit show.

And all that studying actually went on to help Stevenson save a life in the real world.

Alda recalled what happened in a book he put together with his wife Arlene called The Last Days of M*A*S*H.

He said he remembered loaning McLean a book on the history of medicine and that McLean "studied it thoroughly."

Then, months later, Stevenson came upon someone who was injured on the side of the highway, following a car accident. Alda said that Stevenson’s memory from M*A*S*H kicked in and he went into doctor mode, making sure everything went smoothly with the injured person until an ambulance could arrive.

This wasn’t just pressing some gauze on an open wound, either. Stevenson practically performed a minor surgery, right there, roadside.

"He remembered a passage from the book in such detail that he was able to reach into the open wound and pinch off the carotid artery until help came," Alda wrote with real awe.

When Stevenson left M*A*S*H, it left a gaping hole in the show and, for many fans, in their hearts. Stevenson told The Record in 1990 that he didn’t regret leaving M*A*S*H, but that he did regret not realizing that his connection to Henry Blake ran so deep.

"I made the mistake of believing that people were enamored of McLean Stevenson when the person they were enamored of was Henry Blake," Stevenson joked.

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TimothyFisher 33 months ago
The fact that he could own up to his mistake about his character being more popular than him really says something for him. Most people would never be able to admit that, even to themselves. He not only faced up to it, but did it so well that he could make a self-effacing joke. Well-done!
lmahabhashyam 34 months ago
Let’s start with that a doctor in a hospital state side in 2021 isn’t a doctor in a mash unit in the early 1950s Korea within 3 miles or less from the fighting by helicopter so a patient could be rushed to an aide station evaluation rendered and put on a chopper and arrive at a mash unit PDQ. And it never said they all survived. As to the punch in the chest people believed that right up until the early seventies although that didn’t happen during the Vietnam War during Korea many still believed it to help. As for battlefield cleanliness it was a major problem and the episode about the cement verses wood flooring was just one of many problems. Agreed the chest compressions were terrible and checking vitals would be mentioned more, it was a thirty minute episode and they had a medical doctor who had served in a mash unit during the Korean War as an advisor and yes blood was always something they weee short of and soldiers were called to donate more often then they should especially if supply lines were cut . And they were able to remove and graft artery’s and Vains even skin from a dead soldier as they were property of the United States and not civilians and if they needed it from an international unit they would need to seek permission from that country’s military unit,
tsgabel 34 months ago
I agree with Stevenson. People LIKED the Henry Blake character and Mclean Stevenson portrayed him perfectly. I missed the Blake character when he left but loved the Potter character when Harry Morgan took over. I ended up liking Potter even better.
MichaelSkaggs 34 months ago
"I made the mistake of believing that people liked McLean Stevenson when they really liked Henry Blake." Was it really a joke? Others have said the same thing as a serious observation.
JHP 34 months ago
what a super story

thee best Me-Tv ever ran - that's my 2 cents

great job:)
Wufferduck 34 months ago
He could’ve gone into politics too. Related to the Stevenson family of Illinois. Safer than medicine on the road.
Pegs 34 months ago
Not mentioned is the fact McLean Stevenson was the son of a doctor (a cardiologist). I'd be surprised if he hadn't looked through his father's text books & manuals while growing up. It's been noted in a few sources he based (his) Henry Blake on his father, rather than the Roger Bowen portrayal of the character.
MaryHelen 34 months ago
risky or gutsy? had something gone wrong, he would have been sued or even charged with practicing medicine w/o a license.
MaryMitch MaryHelen 34 months ago
Doubtful. The "good Samaritan" laws usually cover people in some situations.
MadMadMadWorld MaryMitch 34 months ago
But was the state McLean and the victim were in, have one of those laws back then?
Either way, it is unlikely a survivor would sue someone (and have it go to a more-than-likely sympathetic jury for the defendant) who at least did not hurt him anymore than he already was hurt! What if McLean did not pinch the artery and stop or limit the bleeding? The victim could have died before the real first responders got there! Think about it!
JHP MaryHelen 34 months ago
hate to say it - I couldnt stand there and watch someone die and not trying to do something

AgingDisgracefully 34 months ago
Related: Linda Lavin REALLY knew how to top off a cup of coffee.
Very funny--not really!
harlow1313 34 months ago
A nice story, but the skeptic in me wonders if it is exaggerated. Regardless, he stopped and helped a person in need, which makes him admirable in my eyes.
WordsmithWorks 34 months ago
"I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV."
JHP WordsmithWorks 34 months ago
"and once I was arrested for notarizing in public" :)
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