Tapeworms, ‘an elephant’s foot’ and weight ups and downs — Hannah Shapiro exposes the physical agony of ‘Survivor’

A preview of next week’s episode of “Survivor 38: Edge of Extinction” showed that a medical emergency is called when one of the players falls ill during a physical challenge. Fans of the CBS reality TV show often wonder what sorts of health issues and discomforts that the so-called castaways must endure while basically living in the great outdoors on tropical islands with few amenities and sparse rations of food.

Well, Hannah Shapiro (see above), a runner-up on “Survivor 33: Millennials vs. Gen X”  that aired in 2016, has spilled the beans on what contestants often physically endure if they want to have a chance of winning the title of “Sole Survivor” and a $1 million prize.

In an article for “Men’s Health” magazine, she writes about the cyclone that destroyed her tribe’s camp and the invasive insects that would crawl into their ears. In the 39 days she played the game, Shapiro lost 20 pounds and her legs were chewed up by bugs. Not that she regrets the experience. She declares her time on “Survivor” as “the strangest, best adventure I’ve ever had,” even if her hair was a tangled mess rife with sticks. She confirms there is a crack team of medical pros on call led by “dashing Dr. Joe” looking over the well-being of one and all.

SEE ‘Survivor’ 38: Just how many dumb things did Joe do before he was voted out? Let us count the ways! [POLL]

But she also observes that like “any extreme sport that had a baby with extreme camping,” the experience of “Survivor” can take quite a physical toll. Shapiro reached out to seven other veteran players who shared tales of how being on the show affected their bodies. Here are some of their stories:

*Kellyn Bechtold,  “Survivor 36: Ghost Island” (35 days)

Bechtold reveals that she suffered from multiple parasites, hookworms and tapeworms. Her weight fluctuated greatly during her month in the game, losing almost 12% of her body weight. Her weight continued to go up and down even when she returned home. The medicine she took to rid herself of bugs was bad for her urinary system. She is just finally getting off the meds that were harming her body.

*Andrea Boekhlke, “Survivor 22: Redemption Island” (37 days); “Survivor 26: Caramoan; (33 days); “Survivor 34: Game Changers” (33 days)

Boekhlke says she lost 11 pounds on her third season of “Survivor,” and matters got much worst when she developed a kidney infection that probably started when on the island. When she returend home, she spent an entire week in the hospital with a severe kidney infection tha weakened her heart. She says, “My kidneys are fine now.”She says she would still do it all over again, but adds, “I still don’t really like coconut, and rice (a “Survivor” staple) will never be the same.”

*Jay Starrett, “Survivor 33: Millennials vs. Gen X” (36 days)

Starrett considers himself “an athletic type guy.” He worried about nutrition but forgot that he could suffer injuries. “Most people don’t know that I sprained my ankle mid-way through. I wrapped it with my sock and kept playing. Althought it was painful, you can’t show weakness, and you have to keep pushing because of the adrenaline.” But then he cut his foot on a reef and it got infected. After being voted out, the infection got worse and his swollen foot looked like it belonged to an elephant.”

*Wendell Holland, “Survivor 35: Ghost Island (winner, 39 days)

Holland was a pescatarian before he went on “Survivor.” But he knew in order to maintain his well-being, he had to eat whatever was available. He won three food rewards, allowing him to chow down on “one epic taco,” fried chicken and a steak dinner. Coming home, he learned he had lost 26 pounds during the game and he lost his basketball skills, partly because “Survivor” also affects the mental state of players.

Check out the horror stories shared by three other playersNeal Gottlieb, Mike Holloway, Sunday Burquest — about the physical hardships they suffered for the privilege of being on “Survivor.”

SEE exclusive predictions: Who will win ‘Survivor’?

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