M*A*S*H episode
“Life Time”
Life time
A severely wounded soldier arrives and Hawkeye must start operating at the chopper pad. The real-time clock at the lower right starts ticking.
Season 8, Episode # 11
Number (#184) in series (256 episodes)
Guest star(s) Richard Lineback
Alexander Petale
Kelly Ward
Network: CBS-TV
Production code: S-609
Writer(s) Alan Alda & Dr. Walter Dishell, M.D.
Director Alan Alda
Original airdate November 26, 1979
IMDb logo IMDB Life Time
Episode chronology
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Season 8 episodes
List of all M*A*S*H episodes

"Life Time" is the 11th episode in the eighth season of the CBS television series M*A*S*H, also the 184th overall episode of the series. Originally aired on November 26, 1979, with a rebroadcast occurring on June 9, 1980, it was directed by Alan Alda and was co-written by Alan Alda and Walter Dishell, along with phantom assistance from authors W.C. Heinz, Ring Lardner, Jr., and Richard Hooker, himself a former U.S. Army MASH unit surgeon, and author of the 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors.


In an episode where the story is told in real time, a wounded soldier arrives at the camp with a lacerated aorta, and the doctors rush to perform an arterial graft before it is too late. Hawkeye and the gang have less than 20 minutes to do the job or he risks paralysis forever.

Full episode summaryEdit

The crew of the 4077th are playing poker near the helicopter pad when a chopper comes down with a critically wounded patient. Hawkeye diagnoses the wound as a lacerated aorta, bleeding so profusely that the patient might not even live to reach the OR in the hospital. In desperation, Hawkeye borrows a pocket knife from the chopper pilot and cuts into the patient's chest to reach in and apply direct pressure to the aorta to stop the flow of blood - despite knowing that a lack of blood flow to the spinal cord for longer than 20 minutes will likely result in paralysis. At this point, a clock appears in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, counting off the procedure's time.

Upon arrival at the operating room, Klinger douses the patient in ice to slow down his metabolism and hopefully buy some extra time for the doctors. Hawkeye is finally able to remove his hand from the patient's chest and clamp down the aorta, but finds that they have no donor material sufficient for a transplant.

Worse, the camp's supply of blood is running low and the patient needs a transfusion to stay alive. Charles happens to have the matching blood type and agrees to donate but Colonel Potter is reluctant, knowing Winchester will be unfit for surgery after a transfusion. But after a quick phone call (and a passable impersonation of the colonel) Klinger confirms that fighting has shifted and no further casualties are expected. Winchester begins the blood transfusion immediately, suffering mild delirium in the process.

B.J. examines the other recently arrived wounded and notices one man with a brain injury too severe to help, noting that he has the necessary blood type to match the patient in O.R. - meaning they can take a piece of his artery to use as a graft for the first man. The wounded man's friend, Roberts, is deeply unnerved by this procedure and exchanges words with B.J., but Father Mulcahy is able to comfort him, pointing out that this is an ultimate act of "giving of yourself to help others."

When the graft is finally complete, Hawkeye asks Nurse Kellye to check the time. Everyone is distressed to learn that they are 3 1/2 minutes over the time limit, meaning that the soldier will likely never walk again.

Some time later, the patient slowly regains consciousness in Post-Op. Hawkeye and most of the staff watch over him, and repeatedly ask if he can move his legs. After several tense moments, the young man's feet twitch, proving that he is not paralyzed! Everyone cheers at the miraculous success of the operation.

Research notes/Fun factsEdit

  • Hawkeye sends Klinger to fetch his canvas bathtub. This was supposed to have been traded for ice cream in Season 7's "None Like It Hot". Still, Hawkeye could have traded it back or ordered another one.
  • The story is told in real time as can be seen with the clock on the screen. However, there is a break where the story jumps about 5 minutes from 1439:27 to 1444:48 hours. This would be where the commercial break usually comes in.
  • This episode is in Alan Alda's list of episodes that were "really good."[1]

Guest stars/Recurring castEdit

Great lines/QuotesEdit

(Hawkeye sends Klinger to get more ice.)

  • Klinger: I'll be back in a trice with the ice.
  • Winchester: Trice?
  • Klinger: The keystone to executive advancement is enhanced by good verbiage!
  • Winchester: Funk and Wagnall are whirling dervishly in their mausoleum.

(Hawkeye examines the arterial grafts. He needs one which is big enough for an aorta.)

  • Kellye: Well, this one's pretty big.
  • Hawkeye: No, no, that's no bigger than a piece of spaghettini. We need rigatoni.
  • Winchester: Spoken like a true meatball surgeon.
  • Kellye: Rigatoni? Doctor, I'm part Chinese and part Hawaiian; can you put that in ethnic measurements I can understand?
  • Hawkeye: A small egg roll.
  • Kellye: That I understand. We don't have any that big!

(Mulcahy praying for both dying and injured patients!)

  • Mulcahy: Dear God, I've never asked You for this before, and I don't know what You're going to think of me for asking now. But if You're going to take him anyway, please take him quickly so we can save the other boy.


  1. “Alda's Favorite 'M*A*S*H' Episodes,”, last modified October 6, 2005,
  2. Stephen T. McCarthy, M*A*S*H - S*T*U*F*F*S (Or, "YES, WE PLAY REQUESTS"), Stephen T. McCarthy STUFFS (blog), accessed on March 14, 2015, URL.

External linksEdit