On a September day in 2011 Turia Pitt lined up in a 100km run across the Kimberley region in Australia. Ever the competitor she wanted to test herself and thought it would be nice to see the most Northern part of Western Australia where she was working as an engineer. About 30km into the run Turia’s life changed in an instant when the then 24-year-old was engulfed in a horrific bush fire.
It is a situation that is unimaginable. Start the day, fit and healthy embarking on a physical challenge. End the day, waiting for a helicopter to fly you out to the closest hospital while you’re fighting for your life. Horrific is an understatement.
Turia received burns to 65% of her body in the fire that she tried to out run. She quickly became unrecognisable to her family and friends. Due to the severity of her injuries she required multiple skin grafts to keep her alive. Unfortunately, at the time of the fire there was no donor skin available in Australia. Due to the Rugby World Cup being held in New Zealand all the available skin in Australia was being held in New Zealand in case there was a terrorist attack! WTF!
Fortunately, donor skin was able to come from The States which helped save Turia’s life. She spent one month in an induced coma and then a further four months in hospital in Sydney recovering. She has had over two hundred surgeries to help heal her body. Turia wore compression garments over her burns and graft sites including a mask over her face for two years. Her rehabilitation has been arduous, painful and at times soul destroying for such a previously fit, capable and beautiful young woman.
“She should have died”
Turia’s story is remarkable. One of her surgeons remarked in her book Unmasked “I thought initially she would be better off dead”. She was not expected to survive her injuries let alone live the full life she now lives. Surrounded by her family Turia has made an incredible recovery. In short, she has had to re learn how to do the simplest of tasks we take for granted like learning to walk again, sit in a chair and figure out how to tie her shoe laces with the three fingers she has. As I sit here touch typing I can imagine this is totally out of question for Turia.
“If I’ve learned anything it’s that we’re all much stronger and more powerful than we’ll ever know. I’m trapped by my body but others are trapped by their attitude and I think that’s a worse travesty.”
There is no question that Turia’s determined spirit was clearly strong prior to the fire. First of all, she had signed up to do a 100km run in a rugged hot climate. Her zest for challenge was not extinguished when she was burnt. Reading her book, I felt like it intensified. Supported by her now fiance, Micheal Hoskin and family she has gone on to defy odds and inspire masses in the process.
Go getter goal setter
A goal-setter Turia decided lying in her hospital bed (unable to stand let alone walk) that one day she would do an Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run). She’s ticked that off completing the Port Macquarie Ironman and went on to complete the beast of all Ironmans in Kona, Hawaii. She has walked the Kokoda Trail, the great wall of China and even the Inca Trail in the process raising funds for charity.
To be robbed of so much function and life at a young age is cruel. Cruel for Turia and cruel for Micheal who became his partners primary caregiver in her recovery. He was there every day 7am-7pm at the hospital in Turia’s darkest days. He learnt how to change her dressings and care for her following her discharge from hospital. They admit there were days when it all became too much. The intense frustration and grief of their situation were released at each other. Through it all their love became stronger. Whilst Turia has been lauded a hero and I think Micheal is definitely a hero in his own right. Turia and her medical team she would not have got to where she is today without Micheal’s selflessness and love for his love.
The definition of Courage, Commitment and Badassery
Turia is a reminder to us all that life is short. It can change in an instant and you have a choice of the circumstances you’re presented with. I am so incredibly inspired by what this woman and her family have had to go through. I also cannot wait to her Turia speak this weekend at Courage, Commitment and Badassery in Auckland. There are still tickets available so check this link out and be in touch with me if you want a discount;)