Mike Ferrell played surgeon BJ Hunnicutt for eight seasons of the cult series M*A*S*H*. Very involved in humanitarian work, his role became larger than life during a trip to El Salvador in 1985, then ravaged by civil war…

Fierce antimilitarist satire, witness to the counterculture which then opposed the Vietnam War, the film MASH (acronym for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, name of the American army surgical hospital in the field) released in 1970 and directed by Robert Altman was a huge success at the worldwide Box Office.

A Palme d’Or adapted into series

Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the film attracted more than 3.6 million spectators in France, marveling at the tribulations of this unit of antimilitarist surgeons plunged into the middle of the Korean War.

The success of the film was such that it was adapted into a series just two years later, and which lasted 11 seasons, until 1985. A champion of longevity of US television, the final episode of which was watched by 105 million people. An absolute record, which has still not been broken since.

She still remains an absolute reference today, particularly for screenwriters, thanks to her brilliant and avant-garde writing. It was also one of the very first dramas, a much more popular genre today.

Diving into the middle of the civil war

In the series, actor Mike Ferrell played surgeon BJ Hunnicutt for eight seasons; in other words a pillar of the team. During a personal trip in 1985, his role became larger than life…

He found himself in a real operating room, helping a Los Angeles doctor operate on a female Salvadoran guerrilla commander captured by the army, while the country was on fire and plunged into a terrible war. civil. The story, absolutely incredible, was reported by the Los Angeles Timesin an article dated August 11, 1985.

Long-time involved in humanitarian work, shortly after the end of filming on the series, he made a trip to Central America, to El Salvador, alongside the NGO Amnesty International. An observer on behalf of the latter, he accompanied the organization in a mission of surveillance, both political and medical, with a woman called Nidia Diaz.

Commander of the armed guerrilla group called the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), she was captured by the Salvadoran army. A prisoner all the more valuable for the government as Diaz had previously made herself known by being an important interlocutor in the talks with José Napoleón Duarte, the country's president.

Seriously injured in the hand since her arrest a few months earlier and poorly treated during her captivity, Nidia Diaz had to be operated on by a neurosurgeon named Alejandro Sanchez, sent there by the Medical Aid for El Salvadora Los Angeles-based organization that provided medical and humanitarian aid to war victims.


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Lend a hand

Under very good military guard, Mike Ferrell found himself in the operating room alongside Alejandro Sanchez. But he, who imagined himself as a “simple” observer of the scene, found himself directly involved in the operation.

Although the actor had no real medical training, Sanchez asked him to help because, Farrell said, Diaz was too difficult a case for his care to be entrusted to local surgical assistants. We never know. Sometimes someone has the idea of ​​making her pass from life to death instead of treating her…

The operation lasted 2h30. 'When I say 'cut,' I want you to cut. When I say 'retract,' you retract. Do you know how to do that?' He gave me a book on tendon surgery in the car on the way to the operation.” said the actor, whose comments were reported in the LA Times. And which he will recount again in his memoirs, Just Call me Mikepublished in 2007.


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Farrell still insisted that Alejandro Sanchez tell the patient that he had no experience in surgery, which might give him the opportunity to postpone the operation. This was obviously not the case. When Dr. Sanchez then explained the situation to Nidia Diaz, she laughed, and replied: “In the mountains, those who can, do it.”

No question of struggling for Mike Ferrell. “So I went into the room to do what I had done hundreds of times before [dans la série] for what seemed like the first time, while telling me not to pass out or vomit when the cutting started.” Hats off anyway.

By Vanniyar Adrian

Vanniyar Adrian is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering stories that resonate with readers worldwide. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to journalistic integrity, Ganesan has contributed to the media landscape for over a decade, covering a diverse range of topics including politics, technology, culture, and human interest stories.