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A Survivor’s Mom: Nancy Szabo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Nancy Szabo is the mother of Chad Crittenden, a 35-year-old teacher from California who was a contestant on “Survivor: Vanuatu. ” His leg amputation, which his mom refers to, occurred a few years ago because of a cancerous tumor.


What was it like watching your son on TV?

It took us back at first, seeing Chad’s face in the commercials and magazines before the first episode. We all got kind of giddy and wanted to see more of him during each episode. His three-year-old daughter, Clara, was completely unimpressed, but I don’t think she understood the uniqueness of being on television.


Was he portrayed accurately on the show?

Yes, he can come across as a fairly quiet person at first but once you get to know him he’s really funny. His close friends find it amusing that anyone would consider him quiet. He is also extremely creative and inventive. That’s hard to show on television.


What was your biggest concern about Chad being on the show?

Our biggest concern was how he was going to do with his leg. I had seen so many “Survivor” competitions involving walking across ropes or balance beam-type things and I just couldn’t fathom him being competitive in those events. I was concerned that he might be too hard on himself if he couldn’t keep up.


What do you think made Chad’s audition tape stand out ?

I think the prosthetic leg was a big factor in him being noticed. In his audition tape, he did some crazy things like taking it off and using it as a paddle. That had to have caught their eye!


Once Chad knew he was going to be on“Survivor, ” what preparations did he make for the experience?

Chad did a lot of reading about survival skills. He also worked out and swam a great deal.


What made him want to be on “Survivor” in the first place?

He saw an ad in the paper about trying out before the first season ever aired. He talked about it a great deal but we all thought he was a bit looney. Chad and Dyann (his wife) have been avid fans since the first season. When Chad was making such good progress coming back after his amputation, he started thinking in terms of “Survivor”again.


Many seasons feature a competition where loved ones are invited to participate. If this opportunity had been presented, would you have done it?

Probably not. I hate being in front of any camera, and I wouldn’t have been up to the task of eating gross things. John, my husband, would have been the more likely candidate - he’s pretty athletic and will eat anything except pot roast.


Since the end of the show, what hobbies and interests has Chad been pursuing?

He still loves snowboarding, biking, music, baseball, watching soccer, tennis, etc. His ultimate goal is someday to return to playing soccer. It’s been a part of his life since first grade and is the one thing he hasn’t been able to do.


Do you think being on “Survivor” changed Chad?

Before “Survivor, ” Chad had

always been an extremely private person. It’s amazing that he ever considered being on “Survivor” in the first place. That has changed a bit now, he’s more comfortable with the notoriety. People recognize him when he’s out in public, which is very strange for him, but he doesn’t get uptight about it like he would have in the past. Other than that, he’s the same ol' guy.


Are there any other thoughts you would like to share about your son’s adventure and your feelings about it?

Chad gets really annoyed when people refer to him as a hero or being especially brave in attempting things. He truly feels he has just dealt with what life has dished out. I think it’s a testament to the role of having a positive attitude and thinking about the things you can do as opposed to feeling sorry for yourself about what you can’t do.

There are many amputees coming back from the war now and I know he would like them to realize that life as they knew it doesn’t have to be over. I know he also hopes for the two-legged population to be exposed to his abilities and perhaps be less likely to view amputees with pity.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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