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Survivor

Paul Wachter Relives His Survivor Medical Scare: 'I Knew Something Was Really Wrong'

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Paul Wachter was ready to give it his all on season 33 of Survivor, but at one point his body gave out.

“I knew something was really wrong,” the 52-year-old boat mechanic tells PEOPLE of his fear he was having a heart attack in the early days on the island for Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X.

After being treated for severe dehydration, Wachter rebounded and went on to help his team win the next immunity challenge, but was eliminated the following episode.

Now back home in Sugarloaf Key, Florida, Wachter reflects on his time in the competition, his blindside eviction and how his family reacted to seeing him at his lowest point.

Monty Brinton/CBS /Getty
Monty Brinton/CBS /Getty

Did Jessica make the right move by voting you out because you might team up with the other men in your alliance?
There was no reason at all to vote me out. Jessica took what I said about telling to her if there became a guys’ alliance and she over-analyzed it. And that’s just Jess being Jess. We all would have to vote each other out eventually, but there was no reason to break up our six-person alliance so soon! We could have all gone a lot further together. Ultimately, it was me and my big mouth that got me in trouble, and I have to live with the consequences.

Some people on your tribe called you bossy. Do you regret stepping into a leadership role?
What people don’t realize is that you don’t have a choice on Survivor when you have my personality – really, no one does. You can pretend to be someone else for a little while, but sooner or later you are just you. If I came across as bossy, that was because I was filling a role I thought needed to be filled. No one was stepping up and I think I helped us a lot.

Any surprises once you were watching the show at home?
The biggest surprise was how much Ken talked. I totally misjudged him. Watching him talk to Jessica about the way the game was going, I had never seen him talk game at all. He never talked game with me or Bret or Chris. He’s an awesome guy and we tried to get him in our alliance but he wasn’t having it. We could talk all day about the crabs or whatever, but he never wanted to talk game. But I have to say, I caught fish, Brett caught fish, Chris caught fish. Ken wasn’t doing all the fishing.

What happened when you started not feeling well?
The day before, I’d started feeling pretty weak and I was having trouble recuperating. The next day, we were working really hard on the shelter and I was sweating a ton and not drinking enough water. I went from feeling a little dizzy to sitting down and then I snapped at Brett. He was my friend and I would never have done that if I was in my right mind. At that point, that wasn’t me. That was a really weird feeling. I laid down and I don’t know how long it was, but the next thing I knew [the medic] and Jeff Probst were there looking at me. They got me through a rough time.

That had to be scary.
If you’re a fan of the show, you’ve see that shot where the medic comes in and people have had to go to the hospital. My first fear wasn’t my health, it was that they would send me home. But they got me a ton of fluid and I started coming back around. Then, when they wanted to check my heart, I went through another spell of being afraid they would send me home. I knew I just needed some time to get me through this so I could stay in the game. To their credit, they helped me quickly and I responded quickly. It took me a few hours to get my juices flowing, but by the next day I was better than ever.

How did your family react to your health scare?
We aren’t allowed to tell anyone about what happened out there until it airs, but my family knew that they were going to see me get sick. I have twin 17-year-olds and my daughter cried when they saw it. That was hard to see, but it’s the real deal out there.

What did you learn about yourself out there?
I really wanted to play against the best they could find, and I think I did. I think I was up against some of the best contestants that have ever been on Survivor. There comes a point where a lot of people my age would decide to not take on an opportunity like this. But I would tell anyone, “Go for it!” Take a risk and put yourself out there because you will have the time of your life.

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.