'Survivor: Samoa' Contestant Russell Swan Talks About His Brush With Death


I was very glad to be able to interview Russell Swan this morning. The 42 year old environmental protection attorney from Philadelphia seemed moments from death after collapsing during a reward challenge on last night's Survivor: Samoa. He collapsed twice and lay motionless after his heart beat rocketed and plummeted, the result of extreme dehydration, exhaustion and malnutrition. Russell has reported that he's now in great health and thankful for everything he has.


Russell always seemed to put a tremendous amount of pressure on himself to be the tribal chief, and didn't always make the right decisions. How useful would a tarp be for Galu right now compared to blankets? Still, he was a hard worker around camp and a big part of the reason Galu won so many Immunity Challenges. I liked Russell as a guy and I was sorry to see him face such a bitter end. If Russell's near death was Survivor's scariest moment then his return to life was one of its happiest.


Earlier today I had a chance to ask Russell about his near miss with being a contestant on Survivor: The Australian Outback alongside Colby, Tina and Elisabeth. I found out about his greatest victory as a lawyer working with the Environmental Protection Agency, and how it was possible to become so dehydrated while surrounded by water.


Q: At one time you were a semi-finalist to appear on Survivor: The Australian Outback. Who would you have aligned with from that cast? Which season would you have rather done?

I would have to say Jeff and Colby. We seem to have the most in common in terms of game play. I am glad I did Samoa as opposed to Australia. It almost killed me, but it was a phenomenal experience.


Q: A lot of viewers may be confused. You seemed to be surrounded by water and practically drowning in rain. How did you become dehydrated?

You can still get sick from water that runs off of things. Remember, it's all about bacteria, and water is the perfect substrate for it. So, just because it's rain, if it's touched something else, you should boil it.


Q: Did this near death experience lead you to make any changes in your life? If so, what?

It has lead me to appreciate everything I already have, (love of my wife, love my daughter, etc.) and not focus so much on the things I do not have.


Q: Prior to the game you told Reality Blurred that you planned to change your dialect, using short sentences and a 'dumb' voice to make people think you weren't a mental threat. Did that work out in practice?

No, because after I got elected chief, all bets were off. In other words, my whole strategy had to change.


Q: You seemed to put a lot more responsibility on yourself as tribal chief than Mick did at Foa Foa. Did you ever consider playing the title off as honorary and allowing someone else to lead around camp?

I thought about it, but my tribe seemed to have strong people/personalities than what I saw on Foa Foa. I don't know how Mick got a pass, but I will tell you I would not have gotten a pass on Galu if I was the same weak leader that Mick was. He was useless. I guess his being useless did help keep him in the game.


Q: As an environmental protection lawyer I really admire your service. Are there any particularly sweet victories you can share with us?

I had a case where a child was poisoned by lead paint. Ulitmately, we were able to get a nice penalty from the respondent, and ordered him to remediate his properties. No more children will be exposed or poisoned by that property anymore.


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