The premiere episode of Season 37 of “Survivor” started with a lot of touchy-feely moments and the usual grousing about outsized personalities, thanks to its premise of pitting so-called Davids against Goliaths. But it ended up with an unexpected and rather harrowing twist when Pat Cusack, a member of the David tribe who took charge of building their shelter, was suddenly shown to be moaning in pain and clearly injured in the final moments of the show. He somehow hurt his back when his tribe returned to their camp after they lost the immunity challenge when their boat went through choppy water caused by a rainstorm.
The maintenance manager, 40, from upstate New York tied the record for the earliest medical evacuation in “Survivor” history. That mark was previously set by Kourtney Moon of “Survivor: One World” in 2011’s Season 24 when she was forced to leave on Day 3. Moon remains the first and only woman who ever had to be medevac’d during the game.
Cusack was a blue-collar guy who sounded stoked to be a part of “Survivor” in pre-premiere interviews, including the fact that the game had allowed him to set foot on an airplane for the very first time. A fan of “Survivor” since Day One, he considered it his destiny to be a participant.
“This is beyond a dream,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in my life, aside from my kids being born.” When his tribe lost the challenge, he told host Jeff Probst, “We’re going to lose an artery to our heart, but we are still going to be strong.” Turns out, he was that artery.
These medical emergencies are always a reminder that “Survivor” requires more than just a knack for finding immunity idols. For many, there is a physical toll to be paid. There have been 16 evacuations on “Survivor,” with 15 being medevacs. Here are all the medical emergencies.
- The first medical evacuation happened in the second season, “Survivor: The Australian Outback,” when Michael Skupin fell into a campfire at Kucha, and burnt his hands. Michael later competed again in Survivor: Philippines, when he tied for 2nd.
- The next medevac happened in “Survivor: Panama” in Season 12, when Bruce Kanegai complained of stomach pains for several days. He revealed that he hadn’t used the toilet for several days since visiting a Panamanian island as a reward. He was pulled from the game but came back to participate in the jury.
- “Survivor: Micronesia” in Season 16 was the first time that two medical evacuations happened. The first was to go was Jonathan Penner, who sustained a puncture to his knee in a reward challenge. The wound became infected and he had to leave. On Day 31, James Clement suffered an infection in a cut finger. He was pulled but came back to be part of the jury.
- On “Survivor: Tocantins” in Season 18, Joe Dowdle suffered from an infection in his leg when the tribes merged. He was forced to leave.
- On “Survivor: Samoa” in Season 19, a challenge involving a basketball caused several injuries, especially to Mike Borassi. He was retained at the challenge site for evaluation and it was determined he should be pulled. A few days later, another player – Russell Swan – passed out after his blood pressure plummeted due to dehydration. He was also pulled.
- Kourtney Moon of Season 24 hurt her wrist during the first challenge. Since her injury required surgery, she left the game. Another participant, Colton Cumbie, was found suffering from stomach pains, which was suspected to be a symptom of appendicitis and he, too, was evacuated.
- On “Survivor: Caramoan” in Season 26, a grain of sand scratched the surface of Shamar Thomas’ eye and he was pulled. On Day 36, Erik Reichenbach collapsed after Tribal Council after feeling the physically punishing effects of the game. He would be the participant to leave the latest in the game for medical reasons.
- During “Survivor: Kaoh Rong” in Season 32, there were three medical evacuations. After winning a reward challenge on Day 9, Caleb Reynolds collapsed due to heat stroke. He was removed from the game when his temperature went up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Another contestant, Neal Gottlieb, was found with multiple staph infections. He was pulled but became the first jury member. And, after a reward on Day 34, Joe del Campo complained about pain in his bladder. He was force to leave but also was part of the jury.
The only good news for the David tribe is that they didn’t have to pick someone to leave at Tribal Council. Instead, the choice was made for them.
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