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Trainer: Blaine was unconscious, convulsing

Magician recovering at home after failing to break breath-holding record
/ Source: The Associated Press

David Blaine was unconscious and having convulsions when he was rescued from his 8-foot aquarium during a breath-holding stunt, his trainer said Tuesday.

“I wasn’t focused on records; I was thinking of a rescue,” said trainer Kirk Krack, a free-diving expert. Blaine was convulsing and “unconscious when we brought him to the surface. If we hadn’t intervened, he would still be at the bottom of the sphere doing a breath-hold.”

The 33-year-old illusionist had been submerged in the aquarium with an oxygen mask for a week. Rescue divers jumped into the 2,000-gallon saltwater tank Monday night and hauled him up.

He was rescued as he struggled to break a breath-holding record of 8 minutes, 58 seconds. Blaine, who had spent some 177 hours underwater, went without air for 7 minutes, 8 seconds as a finale to his endurance stunt at Lincoln Center, which was televised live on ABC.

Blaine checked himself out of Roosevelt Hospital on Tuesday. Friends took him out of the hospital in a wheelchair and then helped him walk to a waiting car.

At home, he took a hot shower, played cards and was able to eat.

But “he was crying” Monday night, said Dr. Murat Gunel, the head of Blaine’s medical team. “He still feels today that he let people down.”

Blaine’s liver and kidney functions had suffered while he was submerged but are now improving. His skin, which was peeling Monday night, “looks much better today,” said Gunel.

His team concluded that strenuous training and losing 50 pounds so his body would require less oxygen left Blaine too tired before he entered the sphere.

They said Blaine wants to try the breath-holding stunt again. Next time, he plans to be in better shape, and do it without being in a tank for a week beforehand.

“He is going over everything he did and analyzing what happened,” said Gunel, associate professor of neurosurgery at Yale University School of Medicine. “He is remarkably strong.”

“I think he was a great success,” said Krack, adding there are only a handful of people who can hold their breath for more than 4 minutes with training.

Blaine started training in December, with some help from Navy SEALS. The water temperature was regulated to help keep his core temperature near 98.6 degrees, and he ate and relieved himself through tubes.

His previous feats included balancing on a 22-inch circular platform atop a 100-foot pole for 35 hours, being buried alive in a see-through coffin for a week and surviving inside a massive block of ice for 61 hours, all of which were performed in New York. In 2003, he fasted for 44 days in a suspended acrylic box over the Thames River in London.