Beaumont trauma surgeon to compete on reality show
This summer, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is going to challenge a diverse group of nine individuals to face extraordinary situations and see who can emerge as the ultimate champion in TNT’s new competition series “The Hero.” Dr. Dave Parkus, a board certified trauma surgeon at Christus Hospital – St. Elizabeth in Beaumont and director of its Trauma Center, is one of those nine.
Parkus doesn’t need the notoriety of a television show to be seen as a hero. In 2002, he risked his own life helping law enforcement officials tackle a terrorist in the Los Angeles International Airport. And that’s not to mention what he does every day at St. Elizabeth’s Trauma Center — saving patients from life threatening injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents, stabbings, gunshot wounds and falls. He also has a general surgery practice, Surgical Critical Care Associates, where he performs surgical procedures in the abdomen such as cholecystectomies, appendectomies, bowel resections, hernia repairs, and colon and breast cancer surgery. Parkus even performed surgery on his own mother, who was suffering from lung cancer.
“During the middle of the surgery I looked down, and there was my mom’s heart,” he said. “I put my hand on my mom’s heart. Who can say they actually touched their mom’s heart?”
“The Hero” isn’t the first reality TV show that Parkus has tried out for.
Parkus said he also tried out for “Big Brother,” but didn’t make the cut. Three years later, Parkus said he endured a rough time in his life that included a torn rotator cup, a nerve entrapment, a blown knee and a pinched nerve — all of which resulted in four surgeries.
“It was just a really rough time for me,” he said. “I got out of shape.”
Parkus’ luck changed, however, when he received a phone call from casting producer Bonnie Clark, whom he’d met while trying out for “Big Brother.” Clark was producing a new TNT show, “The Hero.”
“She said, ‘We’re doing a new TV show with Dwayne Johnson, and we think you’d be perfect for it,’” Parkus said. “They flew me up to Dallas, and I did a video audition and sent it to TNT. They said I killed it.”
But the challenge had just begun for the 50-year-old trauma surgeon, who had four months to prepare for the show.
“I started really training hard — swimming 50 laps a day, running every day. I got my weight back down. I need goals, and this came at a perfect time for me,” he explained.
Parkus endured several tests and auditions to see if he was physically and mentally able to make the cast. Out of several thousand people, he was chosen.
“The next month I was in Panama filming the show with Dwayne Johnson,” he said. “It’s been a really crazy ride the last couple of months. It’s been surreal.”
Parkus said the show is similar to “Real World” in that he and eight other contestants are stuck in a house together and not allowed to leave.
“It’s like a psychological fishbowl. Every room has a camera,” he said. “We’re wired 24/7. They give us these clues, and we go out on what are called ‘team challenges.’ If we win the team challenge in the time that’s allotted, then we win 10, 20 or 30 thousand dollars for charity.”
The next stage, following the team challenge, is called the “hero challenge,” Parkus said.
“It’s a huge epic challenge that’s done by one person,” he said. “Out of the people that win the group (challenge), the house votes on who gets to be the hero.”
The person voted to participate in the hero challenge has a chance to win from $50,000 to $100,000 thousand, according to Parkus.
“You can keep the money or you can add it to a pot of money,” he said. “As the show goes on, the pot builds up. Some people keep the money; some people don’t. There are consequences if you keep the money, and other people offer temptations to screw other people over.”
With temptations around every corner, viewers get to see what the contestants are willing to overcome, undergo, and sacrifice on behalf of themselves and others. To keep the audience up to date, the show will incorporate social media throughout, according to a TNT press release.
“Through the series’ unique and interactive digital platform, viewers will be able to engage with the show and one another, ultimately playing an important part in the outcome and helping to define what it means to be a true hero. In the end, it’s America’s call on who will be ‘The Hero.’”
The competition includes almost every single phobia one can imagine, Parkus said.
“Claustrophobia, darkness, spiders, snakes, heights, ocean, jungle, tear gas, bees … whatever you could imagine, they threw at us,” he said. “But, there’s no way I’m gonna wimp out with America watching. There’s a million dollars up for grabs.”
Parkus, who said he believes his chances of winning are good, said the show appealed to his drive for life.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie; that’s why I chose trauma and critical care as a profession,” he said. “It’s exciting, life or death. Trauma is about taking care of the sickest of the sick and giving them the best possible chance for recovery. Being on a reality show was less stressful than my real life.”
Parkus, who enjoys rappelling, scuba diving with sharks, snow skiing and marathons in his spare time, grew up in California, where he was captain of Long Beach State’s college football team. He earned his medical degree at Emory University School of Medicine. He completed his residency at University of South Florida College of Medicine and his fellowship at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
In 1997, Parkus began serving the trauma, critical care and general surgery needs of the Beaumont area.
“They wanted to build a trauma center and they were looking for a trauma director,” he said. “I built a trauma center from the ground up. It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. “
Parkus said he would be attending a premiere party for the show at Madisons, 4020 Dowlen Road in Beaumont, on June 6 at 7 p.m. The show will air at the bar and grill every Thursday through July at 7 p.m. on TNT.
For more information about the show, go to www.theherotnt.com. For more information about Dr. Parkus and the Christus Hospital – St. Elizabeth trauma team, go to www.christushospital.org/criticalcare.
Kevin King can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 225, or by e-mail at kevin [at] theexaminer [dot] com.