Turia Pitts was caught in a grassfire in Western Australia while competing in an ultramarathon. The mining engineer, author and ambassador for Interplast suffered burns to 65 per cent of her body including the loss of fingers. Her book ‘Everything To Live For’ has just been published.
Who or what inspire you?
Definitely Sam Bailey. Sam is a quadriplegic but still manages to get out and about on his farm in NSW. Sam has every right to be down about his lot in life, but his attitude is totally positive. When asked the hypothetical question, ‘If you could get your legs back, would you?’ Sam simply replies ‘bugger off!’ I am looking forward to that stage of my journey – where I prefer to be in the body that I’ve got. I’m on my way there, but I haven’t crossed the finish line yet.
The most challenging thing about your life?
Each and everyday I’m presented with challenges. Most people take the most basic tasks for granted – that they can spring out of bed, hop in the shower, prepare themselves a meal, get dressed and drive to work. Each of these simple tasks are challenging for me. When I can’t do something, I get frustrated and mad. And then I calm down and think about the task that I’m trying to complete. And I usually figure something out. For example shoes and socks – an easy enough task for most people. Not for me. I did a bit of a research, and ended up buying a sock and shoe aids. It takes me a bit longer but each and everything I can do means I’m on my way to becoming independent.
You mention in your book how a special spoon has made life easier. How did these assist you in your rehabilitation goals?
After I was burnt, I had to relearn the most simple tasks. Eating was one of them. People who have undergone a significant burn often get ossification in their elbows. Doctors have no idea why this happens. Ossification is basically a build- up of calcium, and it has the effect of locking your elbows in place. It effectively stopped me from bending my elbows – this meant I couldn’t feed myself, couldn’t wash my face, couldn’t scratch… all of the basic self-care tasks. All of the rehabilitation tools allowed me that tiny bit more independence. The extendable spoon allowed me to feed myself.
What makes you laugh?
My mum, 100 percent! While I was in hospital she would imitate all the doctors in a funny voice, and it would just make me crack up and laugh so hard that it hurt. We both have a great sense of humour – which I think is a prerequisite when you go through something like we have.
Your favourite charity?
Both of my burns surgeons volunteer on an annual basis for Interplast.
These guys are super busy, yet they still find the time to help this incredible charity. In June 2014 a group of us are heading to the Great Wall of China to raise money for Interplast. We hope to raise at least $200,000.
Are there any areas of rehabilitation you believe are not being met?
From my experience, I feel that the hospital system in Australia is fantastic. Rehabilitation on the other hand is a different story. There is no specific rehabilitation in Australia for burn survivors. In May this year I was lucky enough to go to a rehabilitation facility in France. I think Australians need a separate rehabilitation facility for a variety of reasons: (burn victims) are prone to infections, need intense physiotherapy and still have painful dressings while in rehabilitation but are still not yet ready to show the world their scars.
For more information on organ & tissue donations go to: www.donatelife.gov.au