"It was so painful. The pain wouldn't go away," Outback survivor Michael Skupin told CBS Early Show anchor Jane Clayson on Friday.
The Kucha tribe member was describing what happened when he injured himself while cooking fish over an open fire. "The wind suddenly changed direction. I inhaled a whole bunch of smoke. I stood up quickly and I looked down at the fire and my last thought was, 'Wow, I feel a little bit dizzy.' I fell into the fire face-first."
Eliminated by this injury from Survivor: The Australian Outback, Skupin described how his glasses and the brim of his hat - which he usually never wore - helped to protect his face. "I don't know why I wore it. It was, you know, divine intervention I was wearing the hat and glasses."
"The pain was very, very intense," he said. "When I ran into that first pool of water it was so hot. The water wasn't soothing. That's why I had to go jump into the deeper body of water to get my hands soothed until medical treatment could arrive."
Clayson asked him whether he had called for the medics or did he think he could tough it out.
"I kept looking at my hands and I kept thinking, 'How am I still going to play this game? What am I going to do? What gloves can I wear?' I was not ready to give up," he replied in true "Survivor" fashion.
While waiting to be evacuated, he worried about how his accident would affect the show. "I remember laying on that stretcher and saying, 'I'm sorry' because I thought I had wrecked the show.I thought I just wrecked it. I just remember my eyes tearing up and saying, 'I'm so sorry.' And I never thought I wasn't coming back.
As his stunned tribe mates looked on, Skupin was airlifted to a hospital in Cairns, about an hour and 15 minutes from the Survivor base camp. His wounds were so serious that the chief of surgery sent him to a burn center in Brisbane, another three and half hours away.
And still he was in denial. "I was like, 'Whoa, OK. We gotta make this fast because I gotta get back,'" even though, "my hands had quadrupled in size - it was just one huge blister."
It wasn't until the next day that he realized he wouldn't be going back. "When it finally hit me, it was a mourning period. I still wanted to play. I thought I let the tribe down. I felt like I still had play left in me and it was hard." After a lot of praying, he said, a calm came over him and "I haven't looked back since."
Skupin told Clayson that right before he was to undergo the first of three grafting operations, "my hand miraculously healed. I saw a true miracle happen. The chief surgeon said in 35 years he had never seen anything heal like this, and was just amazed."
He went on to say, "I became, very, very aware that there is a higher power out there - and it is incredible. And when it happens to you directly, it is really easy to believe."
Skupin called his articipation in the show "the greatest experience of my life.
This - being on TV - is not what it is about," he said. "It is about the adventure out there. That's what it is about for me."
Skupin describe dhimself as a "completely changed person.
"It is hard to believe that that experience is the most defining moment of my life. It is an incredible mind-changing thing from a very positive perspective."
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