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Russell Swan gets medically evacuated from 'Survivor: Samoa'


By Christopher Rocchio, 10/23/2009 

Russell Swan pushed his body to the brink and paid the price for it.

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The 42-year-old attorney from Glenside, PA had to be medically evacuated and thus became the seventh castaway eliminated from Survivor: Samoa during last night's broadcast of the CBS reality series.

"I'm really ashamed that I'm not in the game anymore and I'm angry because I'm a fighter," said Russell.

"But at the same time I have to be realistic because I have to get well because I have an even bigger job to do -- one that I love, one that I cherish every day -- and that's being a husband to my wife and father to my child."

Survivor: Samoa's sixth episode began on Day 15 following the previous night's elimination of Ashley Trainer, as the five remaining Foa Foa tribemates continued to battle the torrential rains, which had been hitting them hard since Day 10.

"I'm going to be honest, there was some envy last night when Ashley went home," said Mick Trimming, a 33-year-old doctor from Boise, ID who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. "There was a little tinge of jealousy there."

Russell Hantz, a 36-year-old oil company owner from Dayton, TX, and Jaison Robinson, a 28-year-old law student from Chicago, IL, went and sat in the water in an attempt to warm up.  While Jaison continued to complain about how fighting the elements seemed like "a battle that fate doesn't seem to want us to win," Russell H. was more optimistic.

"This is how I want it to be," he said in a confessional.  "This is really no big deal.  As a matter of fact, this makes me stronger."

Despite the nasty weather, Russell S. continued to work around the Galu camp by fishing and tending to the fire while his fellow tribemates did their best to stay warm and dry.  However needless to say, his previous decision to take comfort items of pillows and blankets instead of a tarp after Galu won a Reward Challenge was gnawing at some of the other castaways.

"That's the way the game goes sometimes," opined John Fincher, a 25-year-old rocket scientist from Los Angeles, CA.  "One person is elected to make decision for the group. Sometimes it puts you in a worse position than you would have been if you were making those decisions for yourself."

Brett Clouser, a 23-year-old T-shirt designer from Salem, OR who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, described Russell S. as an "animal" as he worked around the camp.

"It's great that you're out there doing that, but at the same time, no one expects you to do that," added Brett.  "It might have been to a point where it was a bit unnecessary."

Russell S. explained he'd rather be in the shelter, but since he's Galu's leader he felt the need to show work could still be done despite the rain. However it was obvious to his tribemates that all of his work was taking its toll.

"Russell's definitely got this stubborn determination to do everything," said Kelly Sharbaugh, a 25-year-old hairstylist from Wilmington, DE who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

"Truth is, the elements out here, they're going to break you down. He's just pushing himself too hard and it's going to take its toll."

The rain continued to fall at Foa Foa and everybody continued to try and avoid it -- except for Russell H., who worked right through it.

"It's wet. Where they all from? New York City? They're just a bunch of babies," he said in a confessional. 

"That's why we lose the challenges, because they're lazy.... You don't stop until you throw up, pass out or something. If you don't throw up after every freakin' challenge, you didn't do your job.  That's how I think of it. Now it was freezing last night -- wet, cold. It's time to do something about it today. But they don't want to. They want to sit there and suck on their thumbs. I don't know how to help them."

Later that day the rain finally stopped -- producing sunshine and a rainbow at Galu's camp.  Erik Cardona, a 28-year-old bartender from Ontario, CA, said he had spent 26 hours huddled in his little shelter and explained he had prayed for a break in the rain. Galu took in the scenery of the rainbow.

"I think going through a storm like this, I think it definitely brings the tribe together because we weathered it all together," he said.  "Now that we're out, we know we've got a task at hand, and we're stronger than ever.  I mean, we really are."

The two tribes then met for a Reward Challenge, and host Jeff Probst explained the rules.

One person from each tribe would be strapped in a large sphere.  That person will then guide two blindfolded tribemates as they pushed the sphere through a long course to a table maze. The person inside the sphere would then guide the rest of their blindfolded tribemates as they navigated a ball through a table maze to a finish hole.  The first tribe to get it right would win pizza as reward. 

Jeff then revealed a twist -- win or lose, both tribes would be going to Tribal Council that night to vote one person off.  In addition, the winning tribe would get to sit in on the losing tribe's Tribal Council -- where they would enjoy pizza in front of them. 

Since Galu had four extra members, Jeff told Russell S. he needed to sit four people out.

"We're gonna be able to push if you want to sit out," whispered John to Russell S..

"Unless you want to do it," added David Ball, a 38-year-old fitness instructor from Los Angeles, CA.

"Yeah, I'll do it," replied Russell S..

"I feel weaker as the days go on," he said in a confessional. "But I'm the leader. I've got to go forward. I can't look back. I'm playing the game."

He then chose to sit out Kelly, Monica Padilla, a 25-year-old law student from San Diego, CA, Shannon "Shambo" Waters, a 45-year-old sales representative from Renton, WA, and Dave.

The challenge commenced -- with Elizabeth Kim, a 33-year-old urban planner from New York, NY, navigating in the ball for Foa Foa with Russell H. and Mick pushing; while Laura Morett, a 39-year-old office manager from Salem, OR, was navigating the ball for Galu with Russell S. and Erik pushing.

Foa Foa barely got their ball to the table maze first, as they were followed closely by Galu and both tribes started to work on their table maze with Laura and Liz shouting instructions.

However Russell S. became disoriented when he arrived at the table maze and accidentally found himself at Foa Foa's table. He eventually made it back to his corner of Galu's table -- however he was soon slumped onto it and unresponsive as his tribemates called for him.

"Hold up! Hold up! Hold up!" shouted Jeff. "Everybody hold up!  Medical!"

As all the castaways stopped where they were in the challenge, the medics began to check on Russell S., who was now back on his feet.

"I'm good," said Russell S. faintly.

"He was out," said Jeff.

Russell S. then collapsed to the ground and was swarmed by medics.

"Russell passed out during the challenge. I saw him stumbling around, staggering," said Dave.  "I figured because it was because he was blindfolded. I couldn't tell exactly what was going on. I should have guessed he passed out."

Russell S. continued to insist he "was good," however it was clear nothing could be further from the truth as he laid on the ground gasping for air.  Jeff told everybody to take off their blindfolds as the medics took his blood pressure, which was really low. He was administered oxygen via a mask.

"His blood pressure is even lower than [Mike Borassi's] was," said medic Ramona Salins, as Mike had previously been medically evacuated during Survivor: Samoa.  "If we stood him up now, he'd just black out and collapse again."

Jeff then said the challenge was over.

"Neither tribe wins reward," he added.  "Both tribes will go to Tribal Council tonight. Both tribes will vote somebody out tonight."

He then sent both tribes back to camp while medics monitored Russell S..

Galu returned to camp and worried about Russell S.. Dave said he'd be "shocked" if Russell S. returned, and John agreed.

"For Russell to go down the way he did today, it shows you how tough this game is," said John in a confessional. 

"No one has any experience with this level of dehydration. No one has any experience with the level of malnutrition that we go through. A guy like Russell gives you everything he's got and more every single time. His body failed him today, and it's so unfortunate."

As if on cue it started to rain again, and everybody sought shelter.

"Our leaders not here, and that's a big hit to take," opined Laura.  "We're still playing the game. We're still thinking about the next person that's gonna go, but I know my heart is really heavy for Russell.  I just hope he's okay."

At the challenge location the rain let up and medics decided to see if Russell S. could sit up to determine if he would become lightheaded. Almost immediately, he passed out again, with Ramona determining his heart rate had just dropped 30 points.

"I don't feel comfortable keeping him in, not with his heart doing what it's doing," she said.

Jeff then told Russell S. they were pulling him from the game.

"Come on, come on," muttered Russell S. through his oxygen mask.

"Russell we've hung in there as long as we can," explained Jeff. "You are not doing well. I just watched your heart rate plummet."

"My family depends on me to be the strong one," said Russell S. through tears. "Is this how you want this to end?"

"No," responded Jeff. "It's frustrating to be pulled out of a game you wanted to be part of for so long. You were in great shape, you were the leader of a tribe that was dominating, there were no signs you were going home anytime soon.  You pushed and pushed and pushed your body until your body said, 'Enough.' There's nothing about that that is a quitter."

"But I'm just dehydrated," said Russell S..

"But you're not recovering fast enough. You need help, and if you don't [get it], you're going to be worse," replied Jeff.  "Russell I watched you blackout in front of me two times. There's no way you could have stayed in this game."

Russell S. then broke down in tears. He ripped off his oxygen mask, laid on the ground, and cried.

"Being taken out of the game for medical reasons is the worst thing I've ever felt in my life," said Russell S. in a confessional that aired at the end of the broadcast.

"I played every minute to win this game, and to have my body fail me is utterly demoralizing. But even thought it pains me to not be in it, to do it and fail is better than to never try."

At the Foa Foa camp, Liz said it was "a little upsetting" that they had to return to Tribal Council so quickly.  She met with Natalie White, a 26-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative from Van Buren, AR, and as Foa Foa's only two remaining women they knew one of them was going home.

Russell H. then approached Natalie and the two secured their alliance, as he explained she should vote for Liz.

"I'm putting Liz, you're putting Liz, I know I can talk Mick into putting Liz," assured Russell H.. "No matter what."

At the shelter Liz told Mick she noticed Natalie and Russell H. talking and attempted to get some information from Mick about how he was voting -- but instead he just opined that fact that the tribe has "all the bad luck."

In addition, Jaison lamented the fact that Foa Foa was close to winning the challenge before Jeff had to call it due to Russell S. collapsing.

Over at Galu, it quickly became clear that Monica, Kelly and Laura were allies -- as they discussed their plan to oust Shambo, who they felt would be dangerous if she made the merge since she's visited the Foa Foa camp twice. 

Shambo ran into the three other Galu girls and made her case to remain in the game.

"I have been an honest competitor, a good competitor, a fair competitor," explained Shambo, adding she also is a good fire starter and wood collector.

However Monica was holding a grudge, explaining she wasn't happy that Shambo was the only one that voted for her at the previous Galu Tribal Council.

"So you're writing my name down tonight?" asked Shambo.

"I don't know if I'm writing your name down.  I can't guarantee you anything," replied Monica.

Shambo reiterated that she's strong around camp and should not be eliminated.

"Who didn't write my name down?  Everyone else in this tribe except for you!" shouted Monica, unable to let it go and reiterating it in a confessional.

"The number one reason for voting off Shambo for me is the fact that she wrote my name down last time," explained Monica. "You've got to take your enemy out the minute you can, and right now seems like an opportune moment."

However unbeknownst to the ladies, David, Brett, Erik and John were sitting back at camp and decided Monica was clearly the weakest female.

"I'm sorry, as much as people like to talk Shambo, we would not have won the fishing gear and that first Immunity that started this whole ball rolling without her," explained John.

"And, she poses no threat to anybody.  Post merge, she does not have the power -- the manipulative power that a Laura/Monica tag team has."

The other guys agreed and decided either Monica or Laura needed to go and settled on Monica since Laura would be "severely weakened" without Monica, who also doesn't help at challenges.

Shambo subsequently approached Erik and John about who they were voting for. However Erik played coy and tried to direct her voting without giving her specific information.

"Erik if you were Shambo who would you vote for tonight?" asked John.

"I would probably stay consistent," answered Erik.

"Who?" asked a confused Shambo.

"Consistent. Stay consistent," reiterated Erik, winking at Shambo.

"Meaning who you voted for last time is probably your best bet," added John.

Shambo then asked Erik if he were John, who would he vote for. Erik -- playing the role of John -- said he would follow Shambo's lead. She asked John if he were Erik who he would vote for and -- apparently sick of the stupid game they were playing -- he answered bluntly.

"I would vote for Monica," said John. "Who are you voting for Shambo? Do you get what this is about?"

"Yeah, I do," said Shambo.

John explained Brett and Dave were also onboard.

"Sham, you gotta lock it up," said Erik. 

Both tribes then arrived for Tribal Council, and Jeff noted it was a Survivor first to have 13 castaways there at once. He then provided an update on Russell S..

"Russell was pulled from the game," said Jeff.

"After you guys left, the doctors continued to monitor his blood pressure. His blood pressure was steady. Two or three minutes in, out of nowhere, his heart rate dropped like that. He blacked out again, went down on his back. At that point, there was no question he needed to be pulled from the game. It was the scariest moment I've ever had on this show -- [in] 19 seasons, I have never been more afraid in my life of how bad things were. Russell was in terrible shape."

Jeff then said Russell was currently "doing fine."

"But there was no way he could've come back in the game," he added.

Shambo said it was "really sad" that's how Russell S. went out, and Russell H. agreed.

"If I was going to beat him, I don't want to beat him like that," he said.

Eventually the harsh weather became the topic of conversation.

"I feel like I've been in solitary confinement for a crime I didn't commit, and that is not anything that was advertised," said Erik. 

As the weather was discussed it started to pour again.

"It's not just the misery that the rain brings, but it's the constant fear, the constant torture that it's not going to stop," explained Erik. "Every minute I'm terrified."

Dave said -- based on numbers -- it appeared Galu was ahead, a comment Russell H. didn't appreciate.

"Attitude at Foa Foa is fine," replied Russell H.. "I think they're going to be shocked at the next couple challenges because we can come back. We can even up them numbers."

Mick said the challenge that was cut short was a moral victory since they were ahead when it was called, which didn't sit well with Erik.

"Let's get to the topic of the vote," said Jeff. "Due to the unprecedented nature of today's events in which for the first time ever we did not complete a challenge, there will be no Tribal Council vote tonight.  Nobody going home."

Reactions were mixed and the two tribes eventually began to bicker.

"I really believe that the tables about to turn," said Russell H.. "I'm going to give 110% that it does. I'm going to go all out."

"Let's line it up and let's do a challenge right now," said Erik. "That's what Rus would do... Every bead of sweat that he put into everything he did -- we're bringing that to you. We will bring that every day, every challenge."

Jeff then handed Galu the leadership necklace that Russell S. had worn. He told them to assign a new leader when they got back to camp.

Survivor: Samoa's next episode will air Thursday, October 29 at 8PM ET/PT on CBS.  

(Photo credit CBS)


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