‘MAS*H’ fans know Alan Alda as Cpt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce. He played the surgeon for 11 years on TV. So what happened when the actor found himself on the other end of the knife?
It turns out Alan Alda picked up some valuable medical knowledge during the time he spent in the role. In a conversation he had during a forum at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in 2007, the ‘MAS*H’ star discussed a life-threatening situation he faced in South America.
The story begins on a mountain outside of La Serena, Chile. Alda was filming interviews for a science program when he felt a cramp in his stomach. Before long, the pain got worse and the on-site medic asked Alda how he felt.
“It’s now moved down. I think it’s over here. Maybe it’s my appendix,” he said of the pain. The medic agreed. That response didn’t necessarily inspire confidence in Alda, however, and they proceeded to cart him down the mountain.
An hour and a half in extreme pain down a bumpy road brought him to a small hospital where the former ‘MAS*H’ surgeon was faced with an intestinal surgery specialist.
“Here’s what’s happened. Some of your intestine has gone bad,” the doctor told him. “We have to cut out the bad part and sew the two good ends together.”
Alda, the experienced television surgeon that he is, replied “Oh, you’re going to do an end-to-end anastomosis.”
The doctor was stunned. He demanded to know how Alda knew about the procedure.
“Oh, I did many of them on ‘MAS*H,’” Alda told him.
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Had A New Lease On Life Following The Incident
Thankfully, the emergency procedure went well.
But in the conversation from 2007, Alda talked about just how easily he could have died. As a result, he moved forward feeling ecstatic about being alive. He said that he considers October 19, the day the incident occurred, his birthday.
“And I feel that I was born in Chile. Because I almost died there,” he added.
Near-death experiences tend to give people a new perspective on things. The “M*A*S*H’ star made the most of his situation by using it to reflect on his own life. He wanted to make sure that he was living a life of meaning, and he resolved to go forward doing just that.