By all accounts, Matt Wright was the tribe leader on Season 3 of Naked and Afraid XL. An avid hunter, he caught the first big game animal in the show’s history, a wild boar. He was admired by the rest of the participants as he helped minimize drama and maximize cooperation.
Wright, 34, was a Naked and Afraid veteran. He survived 21 days naked in Thailand during the miserable rainy season with partner Lindsay Boisclair. He later had a Naked and Afraid experience in Belize with PEOPLE’s Steve Helling. He seemed well-positioned to complete 40 days in Ecuador.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Wright got a flesh-eating bacteria in his foot, causing medics to remove him from the show.
Wright has been sharing his experiences with PEOPLE all season long. In his final entry of the season, he talks about what really happens when someone is pulled out of the Naked and Afraid adventure.
On my last good day in the Amazon, I went fishing waist deep in the water. Like everyone else on Naked and Afraid, I had cuts and abrasions all over my feet. Walking barefoot in the rainforest is rough on your soles.
By the time I got back to the shelter that night, my toe felt like an ember from the fire had landed on it. I told the other survivalists that my foot was burning like hell and there was a stabbing pain.
The medic came. In my mind, I thought, “Okay, I got some sort of venomous spider bite.” I thought they’d give me a shot of antibiotics and send me on my way. But the Ecuadorian medic looked at it and said I might have a flesh-eating bacteria. Every time she touched my foot, it felt like someone was hitting it with a hot iron. I later found out it was because the bacteria was killing my nerves.
I was supposed to keep my foot clean and dry, which is impossible in the Amazon. The next morning, my foot was worse. Production took me down to the medical tent and gave me an IV. They took a skin sample and sent it to a lab. And now here I was, buck naked in a tent. It sucked.
The medical tent is the worst place ever, and I just wanted to get out of there. I started thinking of crazy solutions to get back into the jungle. I asked the medic what would happen if I cut the toe off. She said, “Well, the infection has now spread to your foot.”
I didn’t get better, and the medic told me that I could lose my foot — or even my life — if the infection wasn’t treated. Producers had to pull me from the adventure. I was going to an Ecuador hospital, and I was still naked. (They hadn’t given me my clothes, just in case I got to go back to the adventure.)
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When I got to the hospital, a producer explained my condition to a doctor and then left me on my own. I was put in a room, and then it hit me: I am in an Ecuadorian hospital where I don’t speak the language and have no idea what they’re doing to me. They let me take a shower and then they gave me a hospital gown, my first clothes in three weeks.
Nurses hooked me to an IV unit in the wall, which meant that I went for another week without having a shower. They gave me a bedpan, which they sometimes forgot to empty. And other than the flimsy hospital gown, I was still naked.
They brought me my first meal: chicken feet soup. I thought someone was playing a joke on me, but I was wrong. That was what I ate for every single meal for the next week: chicken feet soup. I had gained weight in the jungle because we were eating so well. I lost weight in the hospital. There was a TV, but the only thing on it was VH1, so now I know all the videos from the ’80s and ’90s. I watched videos as they pumped me full of antibiotics. I was miserable.
After a week, they said the antibiotics had killed the bacteria. The production people had come back, so I begged them to let me go back into the adventure. I think they considered it, but ultimately said it wasn’t going to work. So I finally put on some proper clothes and flew home instead.
And just like that, my Naked and Afraid XL experience was over. I wasn’t taken out by a big animal; a microscopic organism had ended my adventure. I hated to leave the jungle like that, and I will pester the Discovery Channel until they send me back. I want redemption.
The third season of Naked and Afraid XL airs Sundays (10 p.m. ET) on Discovery Channel.