'Survivor 44's Bruce Perrault Walks Through His Historic Injury and Removal

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The insurance agent also gives his response to Jeff Probst's offer to return for another season.

Survivor 44 is here! Every week, Parade.com's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the castaway most recently voted off of the island.

Twelve hours. That's how long Bruce Perrault spent on Survivor 44, the shortest tenure for a castaway in over twenty years of the show. But for him and fans alike, his experience was short, but memorable. It was bookended by medical visits, as the insurance agent received a head injury mere steps into the game. And though he was deemed well enough to continue, as the sun went down, so did his condition. With him and his tribe in tears, he learned his time in the game was done.

A Day 1 fan of the show, Bruce was eager to start the game headfirst. Unfortunately, that was taken literally. In the opening minutes of the first challenge of the season, Bruce took a fall, gashing his head open. Though seeming fine in the moment, he eventually fell to his knees. The competition was stopped and medical was brought in, and after some downtime, he was able to make seemingly a full recovery. So Bruce and his Tika tribe continued with the usual Day 1 activities, the bandage on his head serving as the only reminder of what went down mere hours ago.

But a lot can change in mere hours on Survivor, as Bruce was about to experience. That night, he experienced incredible head pain, and he became lethargic. The doctors checked on him again and determined they had to remove him from the game to get him to a hospital and risk anything major. Bruce was clearly devastated, his dream snatched away through nothing of his doing. And that emotion lingered in Jeff Probst. After a full recovery, Probst announced on the first episode of his new podcast that Bruce had an open invitation to return to a future season, giving him a chance at the game that he was never fully given.

Now out of the game, Bruce talks with Parade.com about the diagnosis he received from the doctors, the relationships he made over his twelve hours in the game, and his reaction to getting an official invite back to play.

Related: Read our Survivor 44 pre-game interview with Bruce Perrault

I'm so happy I get the chance to talk with you, Bruce! Even amidst such a heartbreaking exit.
So I want to say something to you really quick. You mentioned that I was one of these. (Mimes a square.) You said I was a square. So I was like, "Let me talk to Mr. Bloom."

(Laughs.) I'm happy to be your punching bag today!
I was listening to the podcast with Rob. My wife was in the other room. I'm like, "He just called me a square!" (Laughs.) My wife was like, "Calm down." I'm like, "Alright, I'm calm!"

Well I am so happy I was wrong! I may have said you were a square, but you were absolutely a heart by the end of this. Naturally, I have to start by asking: How's your head?
I'm great. CBS and the whole medical staff, they took care of me quickly. They made sure that I did the proper things, and they brought them to the proper places and all that. So I appreciate that. Aside from having an enormous size head, I'm good. There's no concussion relapses or anything like that. It did take a couple of days. It took about three days to start feeling a little normal. But after all was said and done, it took about about a week to to feel comfortable to move and read and watch TV and stuff like that.

So you mentioned "concussion." Was it officially diagnosed that you got a concussion in that first challenge?
I was laying on the gurney in a third-world hospital, which had beautiful people. It's so nice. That was the determination at that point in time. They determined after doing a CT scan that there was no brain bleed. That was the biggest thing. That was the  scariest part of it all. Once they determine that they're like, "He's concussed. "But I knew it. Because I coached football for years. And I went through concussion protocols. And I did all the training that's mandatory when you're a football coach. I knew every symptom that I had.

When I initially hit my head, I wanted to vomit. It wasn't even like it wasn't even something that was voluntary. It just literally hit my head and I felt nauseous. Right there is the first sign of a concussion. And I remember waving Sarah through and going through the whole challenge and shrug it off, came to a little bit. But the entire time, like, everything was spinning. But as of right now, I'm fine. Everything's great.

When Jeff gave an update to the other tribes about your condition, he said you were "fine." That prompted a lot of internet outcry that you should have gone back into the game if you made a recovery, as medical grace has been granted in other international Survivor seasons. Just to clarify, were you in a condition to return to the game if you were given the opportunity?
No. The reason why I'm very emphatic with that is, as I mentioned before, as I coach football, I know about concussions. It took me three days to feel somewhat normal. There's nothing like getting up and going to the bathroom and sitting down, and then not having a leg to stand back up. You've got to use your upper body to pull yourself up. You lose all sorts of, I don't want to say motor skills, but energy. Your energy is gone. And then like rolling out of bed, you dip your head back, now you're falling back onto the bed.

People don't realize 24 hours would not have done any justice to myself and to my tribe. Period, end of story. And then also when I was able to rejoin and be a part of what was going on, because I was kind of going through that protocol. So I had the big hat. And I had dark glasses on just to make sure that no sunlight is is getting into my eyes. I'm moving in slow motion. Not swimming in the pool, not going in the ocean. Basically sitting down in the shade, and just taking in the beautiful sights of Fiji, but also getting the brain right.

I'm sure rewatching it happen last night must have been wild, considering how much you may or may not remember. But do you know what exactly the moment of concussion was for you?
Well, for me to remember all this stuff, it's not like it all came back at once. It came back in spurts. I'd be sleeping and then all of a sudden, I'm dreaming of what happened. But it happened when I was going down into the mud. And I was wearing a shirt. (Gestures to his shirt.) This is a nice flexible shirt, I can reach up to all sorts of stuff. That shirt did not allow my arm to go like this (Reaches up) for me to go down and actually was tight. And it's what I'm thinking. I had a scratch here on my elbow. So that kind of stopped me. And when that happened, my head wasn't able to go down, and bang, there you go. And I went face into the mud just had backed myself out. And the rest is history.

So later on in the day, when medical comes back to see you, does your mind automatically jump to knowing you'll get pulled from the game?
No, I didn't think about it at all. I knew that I hit my head, I knew that I was told to do certain things. And my personality, unfortunately, does not allow me to not do what needs to be done. We're getting back to the camp, and I'm helping move bamboo. And doc was like, "Bruce, sit down on your A-S-S and don't do anything. Your tribe will be okay." And I was like, "Okay, Doc." We get to the beach. I'm moving bamboo walking around, I'm trying to get fruit from trees and things like that. And then, you know, it just progressively got worse. But it was never a thought in my mind.

But when it happened, everything was hypersensitive. I could hear everything, my eyes could see everything. I could hear the dot talking about me going to get looked at because we don't know if there's a potential brain bleed. That's what he said. That freaked me out. That was that was when I started to panic. And it was like, "Okay, now it's time for me go. I don't want it to be me." I'm holding on to the sand; I don't want to leave. And if you've ever grabbed onto the sand and tried to hold on to it, it just goes through your hands. And that's how I felt about the game at that moment.

I don't want this chat to be entirely about how the game began and ended. After you left, Carolyn said that you were the only person she talked strategy with. I'm sure you connected over both being parents, and maybe having tight wardrobe pieces in the opening challenge. (Laughs.) Talk to me about your relationship.
Carolyn, from what they showed so far, that woman has an empathy that is above and beyond. She's quirky, she's amazing. And I'm not saying that because of any talking points or anything like that. We took that walk at one point in time, and we literally chatted about her son, my kids, my wife, her boyfriend, her life, the things she did. It is something to be said when someone's talking to you and you're looking you in your eyes.

I'm older now. I'm 46 years old. And my father has always been like, "Firm handshake, look him in the eyes, no other way." And she did that. She's just an amazing human being. She truly is. Everyone on my tribe was, everyone on the whole season. They're all amazing. And hopefully everyone can see that and grow to love everyone here. But with that conversation I had with Carolyn, that built our bond.

You told me in the preseason that you would actively not be looking for advantages in the beginning of the game. And here you and the rest of your tribe stumble upon a birdcage in the middle of the jungle. Did that change the way you wanted to approach things early on?
Yeah, we wanted to break it open! Just Incredible Hulk it, put your hand in it and raise it and open it. (Laughs.) For me personally, I was I was dumbfounded. Remember, it's almost like a Beware Advantage sitting in plain sight. But now there's a lock on it. So we have to find the lock. Like, what's going on? Give us more! But we have to figure it out. But it's something completely different, completely out of the box. That's the evolution of this game. It will constantly keep giving you some kind of curveball, and that curveball was awesome. I just wish I would have had more of a part in searching for a key, or talking to someone that might have found something, or open it. But I loved it. It was great.

Usually, this is where I ask people to look back on their journey. But the good news for you is that we already know you'll be coming back for a second season! Jeff announced it on his "On Fire with Jeff Probst" podcast, though I'm not sure if you even knew about the news before listening. What's your reaction to getting the opportunity to come back?
So I can't see anything without my glasses up close. I'm just blind. I'm farsighted. And I had my phone in my pocket, and everything goes to my watch. It went off a lot during the episode. Then it kind of slowed down. And then after the episode it went off again. And I can't see my phone, I don't have my glasses. So after the viewing party, I went home and my wife's already laying in bed. And she's reading through comments and the well wishes and everything like that.

Then I laid in bed and I grabbed my glasses just to take a look. And I'm looking she's suddenly like, "Oh my god, Bruce. Look at this, check this out." So I click on one of the one of the messages I got, and it was written about the podcast. And I listened. And then Jeff was like, "Cue music. We're gonna announce it." And I started crying. It was like every emotion you can think of. And my wife is right there. Everything flooded forward. It was just a beautiful thing. It was so awesome. I'm getting emotional even thinking of it now. (Laughs.) It's so cool.

Next, read our Survivor 44 preseason interview with Jeff Probst.