It wasn’t an easy recovery for “Naked and Afraid XL” Jake Nodar, but the horse trainer doesn’t have any regrets. During a phone interview Tuesday with the International Business Times, the survivalist talked about his final days in South Africa and how long it took for him to get back to normal after almost having his liver shut down.
Viewers of the final episode watched as Nodar — along with his cast members — ate fruit and got viciously sick on Day 30 of the 40-day challenge Discovery Channel reality show, during which contestants live in the wilderness. While the fruit was edible, there was one major problem with it: It was covered in either monkey or bat saliva/urine.
Even though Nodar was cautious with the fruit, eating it is what ultimately led to his early extraction. “I was very careful not to eat any that were bitten into and I took the peel off,” Nodar told IBT. “Three other people were medically taken away in 24 hours after ingesting the fruit, but I fought through and came back to the group.”
It’s obvious to viewers that Nodar isn’t a quitter, but his illness superseded his stubbornness. “It was clear that something was not right and the infection was in my liver. I had huge swelling under my eyes and I couldn’t roll up or sit over,” the survivalist explained. “I didn’t want to leave. The end was in sight.”
He knew something was wrong when one of the medics, who he had grown to know, was visibly upset. “It was hard for me [to leave], but I knew I had given it the right call,” Nodar said about ditching South Africa. “It was definitely necessary at that point.”
Nodar lost a total of 41 pounds, but that was the least of his worries. He spent 8 days in a South African hospital where he was put on a liquid diet, except for the time he tricked a nurse into giving him beef stew.
The infection from the fruit left him with serious damage. Even the simplest tasks were difficult. “Getting out of bed would take five minutes,” he said. “Moving around made me feel like I was 95.”
When Nodar finally returned to the states and looked in the mirror, he was shocked about his physical state. Most concerning of all was that he had temporary face paralysis, which lasted for three weeks. He also had shooting pains in his hands and feet. “I still wasn’t able to go anywhere. I was still housebound. It was really overwhelming,” Nodar explained. “It was six weeks before I was strong enough to get back into the gym and saddle up and go back on a horse.”
While most people on season 2 of “Naked and Afraid XL” struggled with South Africa’s harsh terrain, Nodar said his time in Amazonia, where he survived for 21 days, helped prepare him. Unlike South Africa, there was “nothing to hunt and nothing to fish,” Nodar said. “There were no signs of wild life or anything that was potential protein. It was really a struggle.”
Even though there was food available, it doesn’t mean South Africa was easy. The temperature burned at 100 degrees and there were leopards and lions the cast and crew had to be mindful of.
In the end, Nodar doesn’t have any regrets about his stint on “Naked and Afraid XL.” “My mentality has always been 'work as hard as you can.' I gave it my all and I don’t think I would do anything different,” he said, before adding with a laugh: “Maybe [I wouldn’t] eat monkey urine-covered fruit.”
Nodar was a fast fan favorite on the series, and it might not be the end of his career on reality television. “For me, I love adventure and travel, so if the right project comes along I would do it in the blink of an eye,” he said. “I love it.”
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