I've enthused here before about one of my favourite TV programmes, M*A*S*H, the series about an American "Mobile Army Surgical Hospital" in the Korean War, that was made during the Viet Nam War. It's being shown two episodes at a time, every night on Channel 61, and I've enjoyed the Time Machine trips this revival has given me. But tonight it showed how old it, and I have grown.
MASH usually, as most soaps do, deals with relationships, with the added frisson of the characters being doctors and nurses. We - well, I - would like to be the witty, self-examining (and everyone else examining) Hawkeye, or the homebody BJ, almost always secure and grounded in his love for his family back home. And Colonel Potter is their father figure, while the dear Chief Nurse Houlighan is given a sexist raw deal. It's a family affair. I love it!
But tonight, the story was of a patient, who our surgical heroes have torn back from the arms of death from wounds, who then volunteers to give blood for his buddy. Yes, it does get a bit sugary at times, but then they check his blood for typing. And discover atypical leucocytes. Our heroes are surgeons but even they can recognise leukaemia. Which is incurable, isn't it. They have saved him and condemned him at the same time.
And of course that isn't true any more. The whole schtick of the story just wouldn't work today. We recognise many forms of leukaemia that may vary the survival, but over 40% live more than five years and over 30% more than ten. In children, survival is twice as good, so the outlook continues to improve. You just couldn't write that story today, it's one that has been overtaken and sent to the history books by medical progress. The same might be said of a military hospital in WW1, before antibiotics, the subject of a new series on TV, or the emergence of any treatment at all for spinal injuries as a recent play about Ludwig Guttmann and the Stoke Mandeville Games showed.
But those were avowedly historical. MASH was about a war twenty years before its time, and I'm watching it again thirty years later. Nostalgia, but also pride - we have come a long way.