In September 2011 Turia Pitt sustained burns to 65% of her body while participating in a 100 k ultra marathon, an event I participated in the year before. After watching her story on 60 Minutes and hearing her on radio 4bc in Brisbane, I was taken aback by the courage and determination Turia has shown in her battle against her injuries. Turia has generously agreed to share some insights into her life since she sustained her injuries.
Q . One can only imagine how you have been able to come so far since September 2011, do you look back and think wow look how much I’ve achieved ?
A. Hmmm… I’m always focused on what’s ahead, and my future goals and aspirations. I never look back, and I think that’s really helped me move forward and move on from the Kimberley fires. Having said that, I am proud of my progress and I’m proud of the person that I am.
Q. How did you become involved with donate life and organ & tissue donation ?
A. In the early stages of my recovery, the doctors debrided (removed) my dead and burned skin and they needed something to ‘cover’ me. As there was absolutely no skin tissue available in Australia they ended up using a synthetic skin replacement.
Sometimes there’s no substitute for the real thing and this turned out to be true in my case. My doctors frantically searched the world for some skin tissue and managed to find some in America.
Then came their next problem. In Australia, it is illegal to import any skin tissue – customs would not let the package of life-saving skin through. In a race against time, my doctors put it plain and simple – “if you do not let this skin through, Turia will die”. Needless to say, they let it through!
Only 1 out of 100 of people who die will make suitable organ donors. This number jumps significantly when you start talking about skin and other tissue—it’s one in five. I was dumbfounded when I found out that there was no skin available in Australia.
It was through this life and death experience that I became involved with organ and tissue donation.
Q. I read that you’re undertaking more study as well as some big exercise goals where do you get your motivation from ?
A. Good question! I suppose what I’m trying to do, and what I’ve always done, is make the most of my circumstances.
My biggest inspiration is Sam Bailey – a farmer from country NSW who happens to be a quadriplegic. Not only is he a farmer, but he is a motivational speaker and will be the first quadriplegic in the world to fly a helicopter. He really shows all of us that there is NO excuse for not living life to it’s full potential.
Q. What’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with in your recovery ?
A. Definitely my hands. They were badly burnt and I’ve only got partial movement in my three remaining fingers. We use our hands for everything… doing up buttons, using a knife and fork, making ourselves a sandwich. My lack of functionality in my hands is my number one frustration.
Q. Did the injuries you sustained leave you with any respiratory problems ?
A. No. My main problems are with the lack of function in my hands, my lack of flexibility and my inability to regulate my body temperature (it takes ages to heat up, and ages to cool down).
Q. Your events Callander for this year looks pretty daunting, 4000k cycle for variety, Lake Argyle swim andamp; walking a section of the Great Wall of China, it must be difficult to train for all those activities ?
A. Yes very! I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew for sure! I’m quietly confident for the swim and the trek on the Great Wall. I’m actually on the cycle now, and I am nowhere near prepared enough. A valuable lesson though – if we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail.
Q. Speaking of those events, they cover the three disciplines of triathlon is that something you’d consider in the future ?
A. Yes definetly. I’d love to complete an Iron Man, and plan on training for an IM event next year. It might take me one year, it might take me five… but I reckon I’ll be able to do one.
Q. My wife & I do most of our training together is that the same with you and Michael , if so who pushes who the most ?
A. Yes, I enjoy training with Michael as he has a tendency to push me quite hard, and never gives me any sympathy. That’s great but you can’t sustain that level of energy for every training session. That’s why I have a personal trainer and I also train by myself.
Q. Your involved in a variety of awareness and fund raising campaigns, do you draw strength from the involvement you have ?
A. Hmmm. I’ve always been really involved with the community, and that certainly hasn’t changed since my accident.
Q. What advice would you give to anyone going through physical challenges as far as what gets you through it ?
A. I think the stronger I’ve gotten physically, the stronger I’ve become mentally and emotionally. But I’ve learnt that strength isn’t just about your muscles… it what’s between your ears that counts.
For more on Turia’s events this year a Variety Cycle to Uluru, the 20k Lake Argyle swim & completing a section of The Great Wall of China to raise funds for Interplast click here