'Survivor' Castaway Pat Cusack Has No Recollection of 'Scary' Medical Evacuation (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
In the blink of an eye, everything changed for Pat Cusack.
The 40-year-old property manager suffered a devastating injury on day three of his Survivor journey, becoming the first cast member in the show's history to be medically evacuated after a routine boat ride back to camp.
Viewers watched in shock as Wednesday's season premiere returned from commercial break to show Pat being transported to the beach on a stretcher, where he was evaluated by doctors for a back injury. He seemed barely conscious, only able to yell, "I'm scared" and "I can't go out this way!" between terrifying convulsions.
"I have no recollection from the time the accident happened until I woke up on the helicopter at the hospital," he told ET on Thursday, after watching the intense episode the night before with his family. "I knew it was scary, but I didn't know how scary it was. And to just see how it was, with the convulsing and my eyes rolling back, and snot coming out of my nose, it was definitely very, very emotional to see."
All Pat remembers is seeing "15 to 20-foot waves" off the side of the boat before his injury. Doctors told him afterward that he had compressed his spine from impact, after being thrown up with the boat over the ocean. "It ultimately deteriorated the bursa sac between my second and third vertebrae," he explained, noting that his treatment in a Fijian hospital was definitely a new experience, but he was in good hands.
"They're a developing country, and obviously the medical technology isn't as advanced there as it is here... [but] I was more worried about, 'OK, what does this mean? Does this mean I'm going to need to go for back surgery? Am I going to be sent on a plane home? Where do we go from here?'" Pat said. "It was a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of dark thoughts in my mind, being ripped out of the game by forces other than my own. So just, why. The question was, 'Why me, why now?'"
"I fought and I grinded to play the game, and to have it ripped away... I probably could have swallowed it more if I was voted out, but to be taken out by means that are beyond my control, it was gut-wrenching," he added.
At the end of the day, however, Pat has accepted that the doctors made the right decision to pull him from the game. "Obviously I was in a lot of pain, and without them having the technology right there at that moment to X-ray my back to make sure there wasn't any serious injuries, they have to do what's best for my long-term health," he conceded. "Being that I am a contractor, it was the best decision, because it's better to be safe than sorry."
Production made a call to Pat's wife informing her that he had been in an accident, but he didn't return home right away. Pat spent the next two to three weeks recovering at Ponderosa.
"I've tweaked my back before, so I had some exercises that I was doing to try to loosen the tightness up, and as the days and the weeks progressed, I was able to get back to jogging, to using some weights and starting to build the core back up," he revealed. "I didn't want to lose the entire experience."
"Here I am, I'm already ripped out of the game by not anything I could have controlled. I didn't want to go home and sit at home and dwell on, 'Why me, why me?' So I decided to stay on location and get as much out of the experience as I could," he expressed.
As for whether his terrifying evacuation was enough to keep him away from going back out for another season of Survivor, Pat insisted he'd be "grateful" to get another shot at the million dollar prize.
"The whole Survivor thing is based on stories. Ever since my accident, I just tell everybody, season 37 is the prequel to my sequel," he shared. "Hopefully I'll get to have another book and get to write the final chapter and be Sole Survivor in another season."