I feel very humble to have had the opportunity to work with lovely Turia. Her strength, resilience, sense of humour and continued quest for a life filled with adventure, travel and career heights, not pity and wallow, make her the kind of woman every one of us should meet, just in the hopes some of that positivity rubs off on us.
Turia was running an ultra marathon in the Australian bush when she was caught and burnt in a bush fire. Her injuries were life threatening, but Turia battled through and is now back to doing what she does best – defying expectations. I placed her story in Reveal magazine and it’ll soon be seen in Pick Me Up too as well as a few of our foreign magazine titles.
Turia knew she was a lucky girl – great job, great boyfriend, great life. Then something terrible happened. Now Turia feels luckier than ever.
Turia, 26, explains:
The moment I thought I was going to die, all I could think was that I wanted to see my boyfriend again. Maybe that’s what helped me survive the fire.
It was September 2011 and I was competing in a marathon in the Australian outback. Disaster struck in the form of a bushfire, when flames engulfed me and life as I knew it was gone forever.
Gone too was the skin on my face, fingers, neck, arms, legs and chest. And gone was the way the world looked at me and the way I looked at the world.
Just days before the fire, I’d graduated from university. I’d been with Michael two years and already found a great job. I had set off on the run without a care in the world.
I was a few miles in when I spotted a fire. Bush fires are common in Australia, but this one was angry. It’s roar was as loud as a jet engine.
The other runners and I had no choice but to try and climb up a steep rocky cliff. We made it to a ledge.
I curled up in a ball but the smoke and heat was too intense, so I stood up and tried to climb higher. At that moment, I realised the flames were sweeping over me. My arms were on fire as I fell back to the ground.
The fire passed through in seconds, but those seconds felt like hours. I lay in agony, not daring to move, wondering if the other runners were okay.
I had no idea how charred my body was, that I couldn’t feel anything because the nerve endings were burnt away.
One other runner had suffered life threatening burns, the others helped us with offers of water and pain killers. With no phone signal, it was four hours until we were rescued.
When an ambulance arrived, the paramedic burst into tears.
That’s when I realised I was unrecognisable.
I was helicoptered to hospital and put in an induced coma. Doctors fought to save my life as I had burns to 64% of my body.
It was two months before doctors felt confident I would survive.
Michael was by my side, every day.
I didn’t have enough skin left for skin grafts, so skin was imported from America. They amputated some fingers and I slowly began to rehabilitate. I had to learn to talk again, as I could barely move my tongue or facial muscles.
‘I love your beautiful eyes,’ Michael would say every day. I still had no idea what I looked like.
The first time I saw my reflection, I wept. I didn’t want to care about my looks, but the change was shocking. I had to wear a mask for 23 hours a day to help with healing.
Everything had changed. Everything except Michael, my rock. He made me see I could still be happy.
Since the fire, I’ve been on fundraising expeditions to raise money for charities and I give motivational talks in schools. I’ve had 16 operations and will need more operations for the rest of my life.
I feel lucky. I am lucky I survived, I’m lucky I have Michael. I count my blessings every day.