McLean Stevenson wasn’t a medic, but he did play one on TV. Thankfully for a victim of a car wreck, he picked up a few skills from his character on M*A*S*H. As Lieutenant Colonel Henry Baker, Stevenson was a laid-back, down-to-earth commanding officer. While this won him the affliction of the unit, he often received criticism from his superiors for not adopting a stricter discipline. Despite how he might have appeared to Major Frank Burns and Chief Nurse Houlihan, Bake became a pivotal part of the classic 1970s series and was a favorite among fans.
During Stevenson’s three seasons on M*A*S*H, he picked up a little knowledge about in-field medical care. While his character might have been an ineffectual leader, he proved to be a skilled doctor. In order to accurately portray the role of Baker, Stevenson became a bit of an expert in first aid himself.
According to castmate Alan Alda, Stevenson would read medical books while preparing for a new episode. In his book, The Last Days of M*A*S*H, Alda recalled that Stevenson borrowed a book on the history of medicine from him and “studied it thoroughly.”
This not only helped Stevenson to become a better actor on the show, but it also made him a better first responder in real life. Months after reading the medical history book from Alda, the M*A*S*H star came across a victim of a car wreck on the side of the highway. The person was injured and required medical attention. Suddenly, Stevenson wasn’t Stevenson anymore. He became Henry Baker.
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Provided Advanced Medical Care to Car Crash Victim
The M*A*S*H star recognized that the car wreck victim needed immediate care to stop the bleeding. However, Stevenson knew that applying pressure to the wound wouldn’t be enough. Instead, he recalled the plethora of information he gained from textbooks and his role on the show to sufficiently help the patient before professional medical personnel arrived.
Alda recalled hearing the story and expressed just how amazed he was with Stevenson’s actions.
“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,” the fellow M*A*S*H star wrote in his book.
This procedure is extremely delicate and difficult for an untrained civilian. However, against all odds, Stevenson managed to complete the process. Given the severity of the wound, Stevenson saved the life of the car crash victim. Without his quick action and knowledge, the patient very well could have bled out.
The incident demonstrated just how much Henry Baker was ingrained in Stevenson. After several years on the show, the two entities became one and made the world and M*A*S*H a better place for it.