The following contains spoilers from the Season 44 premiere of Survivor.
You never want to see a player get medically evacuated from Survivor, but in a high-stakes game filled with dangerous elements and physical demands, sometimes it’s the nature of the beast.
Unfortunately for Bruce Perreault, a nasty head injury during the season’s very first challenge had him removed from the game after searing pain sunk in and worryied the show’s producers. (And that wasn’t the only time the medical team was called in. Read all about it in our premiere recap.)
Here, Bruce talks to TVLine about the head-splitting challenge in question, what he was feeling that day, and what happened after he was removed from the show.
TVLINE | First of all, I’m so sorry your Survivor experience went down like that. Can you walk me through exactly what happened from the second the challenge began?
BRUCE PERREAULT | Your adrenaline is getting to boiling and Jeff says, “Go!” You take off running at 110 miles per hour and you leave nothing behind. You go under the first beam and everything’s good — but people are telling me that it looked like I bumped the back of my head, so that’s not a good sign to start off — but then I got to the next one and bang! You lose sight, you feel nauseous. Even thinking about it now, I don’t know how that happened. I have an idea, but it doesn’t make any sense that it happened.
The shirt I was wearing didn’t have a lot of give to it and I’m thinking that, because I had a little gash on my arm, I’m thinking that when I went down, I wasn’t able to put my arms straight out. I got restricted. So by being restricted, bam. And here we are.
TVLINE | Tell me how you were feeling right before Jeff stopped the challenge, when you dropped to your knees in the sand.
At that point in time, I was thinking: Thank you. Because I needed someone. I couldn’t say it. I didn’t want to stop this thing that has consumed a portion of my life, that I love and cherish. I didn’t want that to stop. I didn’t want to be the center of any attention aside from something I might’ve done to help the team win the challenge. But when Jeff said, “Everybody stop!” I stopped thinking and was like, “Oh, s–t. This hurts!” And then they all came over.
TVLINE | Once that challenge was over, did you think you were in the clear? What were you feeling that night before Jeff came to pull you from the game?
I had a 7 out of 10 [in terms of pain] from the time I hit my head, to the time I sat up, to the time I hit the beach and my camp. My head was just banging the entire time. Before medical had showed up, my head was at a 10 out of 10. The sensitivity to everything… Fiji is beautiful. It’s absolutely beautiful. You’re sitting on the sand and the hyper-intensity of everything… the sounds of the water hitting me and the waves crashing were just like glass in my head. It was so crazy. Then I could hear them say, “We have to get him medevac’d. We have to make sure there’s no brain bleed.” That was the thing that freaked me out. So once that happened, I was like, “Do what you’ve gotta do boys.”
TVLINE | Where did they bring you when you left the game and what was the official diagnosis from doctors?
You saw me leaving in the boat. They took me on a boat ride to another part of the island. From there I took a helicopter to the mainland. From there I took a two-and-a-half-hour ambulance ride to the hospital. That’s only because it was raining out and they couldn’t get me in closer. It was for safety reasons, which was great. I appreciate that. They took care of me the entire time. Every part of it, and they checked up on me afterwards. I’m so thankful. But then they did the CT scan, and the doctor said there was no hemorrhaging, no brain bleed, but I was concussed. I coached football for 11 years, and you have to know all the policies, procedures and protocols in regard to concussions, and I know that I definitely had one.
TVLINE | Was there anything from your time out there that you wish was shown in the episode?
The edit that they gave was great. They showed what I think was in my best interest because I was not myself. When you have to take a pee break and you’re holding onto a tree so you don’t fall over, I don’t want that to be shown. So the editing department did a great job of showing me in my best light even though I was in so much pain after that traumatic injury.
TVLINE | So if Jeff Probst calls you up to say that they’re doing another Second Chances season, are you in?
Yes. I would say “yes” 15 times over, I promise you that! If I get called back, I’d already be on a plane saying yes. I would definitely, definitely play this beautiful game again. [*Update*: Jeff has invited Bruce back for another go on the show’s official podcast: “We are officially inviting Bruce to play Survivor again,” the host said. “First player of the new era invited back. It’s kind of exciting. It just felt like the right call… He’s got to leave his job again, leave his family and miss those baseball games. But it’s an open invitation. So hopefully we’ll get Bruce out on that island again.”]