When you were a kid, you probably heard the warning, “If you watch too much television, your brain will turn to mush.” Well it turns out that advice is not only wrong, but criminally negligent. When it comes down to it, watching a lot of television just might be the difference between life and death. Here are 7 TV shows that actually helped save someone’s life:
1. The Walking Dead
It’s ironic that a show so famous for killing people off actually helped save someone’s life, but The Walking Dead did so in the most unbelievable way possible (and no, we’re not talking about Glenn).
Kevin Sutton was camping outside of a Best Buy (collecting cans of food and trying to raise awareness for the homelessness epidemic) when we he over heard an argument. The altercation quickly turned violent and when Sutton approached the scene, he saw a man had been shot in the stomach.
“He started shaking and was screaming for his life, ‘I’m going to die,'” Sutton said. Thanks to some quick thinking and a binge watching habit, Sutter was able to render first aid. Using a technique he claims to have seen seen on The Walking Dead, Sutter cleaned the wound and applied pressure to stop the bleeding until paramedics arrived.
2. Spongebob Squarepants
In 2015, Brandon Williams, a 13 year old boy with autism, noticed that classmate Jessica Pellegrino was choking on a piece of apple. Williams quickly rushed to Pellegrino’s aid and performed the Heimlich maneuver (or Slimelich maneuver as Patrick calls it), saving her life. When asked where he learned the Heimlich maneuver, Williams said he saw it on Spongebob Squarepants.
“He picks up on things that most of us would miss, and files it all away in his head, and he can recall it all in an instant,” Williams’ dad explained, “That’s how he knew instantly what to do. And we’re glad he did. We’re proud of him.”
This wasn’t the first time Spongebob had saved a life either. In 2010, middle schooler Miriam Starobin performed the Heimlich on her BFF. “Allyson was chewing gum, which she shouldn’t have been,” Miriam explained, throwing her friend under the bus, “We were laughing and then the gum gets lodged in Ally’s throat. And she stopped laughing, which was weird because Ally laughs a lot.”
According to a Nickelodeon spokeswoman, there’s no Spongebob episode that contains the actual Heimlich, but the Slimelich is close enough that it saved lives. You hear that kids, puns save lives.
3. The Simpsons
While Spongebob might not have actually featured the Heimlich, The Simpsons did. In the season three episode “Homer at the Bat” (notable for being the greatest episode of all-time), you can see a chart in the nuclear power plant break room which explains the Heimlich. When his friend Alex started choking on a ham sandwich, Simpsons’ fanatic Aiden Batemen remembered the episode and was able to perform the lifesaving maneuver.
As we’ve mentioned before, medical shows have some of the most batshit insane diseases, however this kind of lunacy extends into the real world too. A German man with severe heart failure went to his doctor complaining of fever, blindness, deafness, and enlarged lymph nodes.
His mix of symptoms puzzled some doctors, but not House fan Dr. Juergen Shaefer. “After five minutes, I knew what was wrong,” explained Dr. Schaefer, who works at the Center for Undiagnosed Diseases in Germany. Dr. Schaefer recognized the man’s symptoms as cobalt poisoning which he had seen on an episode of House. It turns out that part of the patient’s metal hip had leaking cobalt and chromium into his bloodstream, causing heart failure.
“We would have diagnosed this even without Dr. House,” Dr. Schaefer said, “You could have also typed his symptoms into Google and gotten the diagnosis.” While we appreciate the confidence, it’s never very reassuring when your doctor’s diagnostic routine includes Web MD. Dr. Schaefer also added, “I would have fired [House] after the first three episodes.” Okay, now he’s just being a jerk.
Survivorman is best remembered as the cheap knock off of Man vs. Wild, but it probably did more good. In 2013, two Australian brothers were attempting to climb Mt. Albert Edward on Vancouver Island when became caught in heavy fog and disoriented.
The pair were able to survive the whole weekend using knowledge they had learned from the TV show Survivorman. “They built shelter, rationed the one small bag of trail mix they had between them, kept warm and signaled searchers with the brightest objects they could find,” explained Paul Berry, who was in charge of the search and rescue operation had found the brothers.
Those weren’t the only lives saved though. In 2008, a Utah couple who got trapped in the snow were able to fashion snow shoes using materials cut out of the seats – something they had seen on Survivorman. Later that year, a Canadian snowmobiler became separated from his party, but was able to stay alive and hydrated by eating snow. This last incident was particularly important to Survivorman host Les Stroud. Despite Stroud’s advice, many survivalists actually argue against eating snow.
“I have always disagreed with that. Being a Canadian who’s around snow a lot, I’ve always said if you don’t have water, and you’re working enough during the day and you’re warm, and this boy apparently was, then just eat snow,” Stroud told the Canadian Press.
Simon Cowell is famous for his scathing insults, but his harsh criticism may have saved a woman’s life. In 2007, Jacqui Gray went on the British talent show X-Factor and received some life changing advice. After she finished singing, Cowell told her, “You have a very odd-sounding voice. Something happens to your throat when you sing… It is quite raspy. It sounds as if you have someone else in there. It sounded like you were choking on something.”
Cowell and fellow judge Sharon Osbourne then encouraged Gray to seek medical attention. Imagine being told your singing is so bad, you should seek professional help immediately. However, based on the judges’ insults, Gray went to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist who diagnosed her with bronchiectasis, a rare lung disease which, left untreated, could have killed her. “I may not have got through on X Factor,” Gray said, “but they gave me something much more important than that – they really did save my life.”
7. American Horror Story
In 2015, the Boston Children’s Hospital announced a partnership with Hollywood special effects company Fractured FX, the company responsible for the blood and gore on TV shows like American Horror Story and The Knick.
In order to better train their surgeons, Boston Children’s Hospital worked with the special effects company to design surgical models that contain “artificial tissues that bleed and pulsate, man-made blood vessels that feel like the real thing when doctors insert a catheter and special gels that feel like brain tissue when an endoscope is guided through them.”
Thanks to their experience designing realistic gore for American Horror Story, Fractured FX was able to apply those skills to help saves lives in the real world. In the words of Fractured FX CEO Justin Raleigh, “A lot of us had aspirations in medicine, and… we wanted to take our skills in special effects to try and help people.”
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