author of Everything to Live For
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in F’aaa, Tahiti. My dad was an Australian surfer, living in Tahiti and making surfboards. He fell in love with Mum who was sixteen at the time. They had Genji (my older brother) and I in Tahiti, and decided to move to Australia when I was two. We lived in Maroubra for a few years, before my family made the decision to move down the South Coast. My schooling years after primary school were disordered – I started at Ulladulla High and then moved to St Johns, which was an hour away by bus. One afternoon the bus crashed and one of the students died. My parents pulled me out of the school, a decision which I was not happy with. I then went to the Shoalhaven Anglican School but did not settle in at all. I then went back to where it all began – Ulladulla High!
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
When I was twelve, I wanted to be a doctor. As I got older, I realised this was what mum really wanted me to do – and when you’re young, you have a tendency to rebel – so I changed to wanting to be a mining engineer.
When I’m thirty, I’ll let you know what I want to be…
I think the older I’ve gotten, the more confident I’ve become within myself, my appearance and my life journey. Being burnt in that ultra-marathon has actually made me even more determined and even more ambitious than I was before.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
When we were kids, we asked our dad if we could fly, and he said yes. We spent the rest of the day jumping off the roof of the garage, and by the end of the day, we had convinced ourselves that we had flown. This has reinforced to me the power of positive thinking. When people say things can’t be done, that’s like waving a red flag in front of me.
Doing well in my HSC. When I went to pick my subjects, one of the teachers told me that I wasn’t capable of doing the ‘heavier’ subjects like physics and maths extension. That teacher ended up doing me a huge favour – if you want me to do something, all you have to do is tell me that it can’t be done!
The 2011 Kimberley Ultra-marathon. This was really a pivotal moment for me, and I’ll always think of my life ‘before the fire’ and ‘after the fire’.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
No way! I’ve always been a reader, and the thing that I like about books is that they’re a form of escapism – you enter a world constructed by your imagination only. Having said this – I have done other forms of media (such as TV, radio and blogs) to ensure that my story reaches everyone.
Well, it’s basically just the story of my life. I’m an independent and vivacious woman, who enters a 100 km ultra-marathon, unknowing that the event will change her life forever. It details my recovery, and how I’ve overcome my personal adversity. Everyone in the world has their own traumas and challenges – so I think everyone can learn something from my story – whether it be the importance of perseverance, how to stay positive or how not to take your loved ones for granted.
Everything to Live For is the story of one young woman’s survival against extraordinary odds, a testament to the human spirit.
In September 2011, Turia Pitt, a beautiful 25-year-old mining engineer working her dream job in the far north of Western Australia, entered an ultra-marathon race that would change her life forever. Trapped by a fire in a gorge in the remote Kimberly region, Turia and five other competitors had nowhere to run. Turia escaped with catastrophic burns to 65 per cent of her body.
With too little unburned skin left for skin grafts, Turia was put in an induced coma in the Burns Unit at Sydney’s Concord Hospital while her body fought life-threatening infections and her surgeons imported skin from California. She lost the fingers on her right hand and her fingers on her left are partially fused together. She needed a new nose. There have been numerous operation, yet there are many more to come…
7. If your work could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
At the moment, I’m working quite closely with a charity called Interplast. This organisation provides free reconstructive surgery to people (including other burn survivors) in developing countries. I actually found out about this charity through my surgeon, who volunteers for Interplast on an annual basis. And when I found this out, it just made me think, if this busy bloke can help out, then surely I can do something too. This is why I am so thrilled to announce that I will be fundraising for Interplast by walking a section of the Great Wall of China in June 2014.
So, to get back to my point! I actually feel very lucky to live in our great country of Australia, where I received the best medical treatment that’s available. I am certain that I would have perished if I was born in a developing country – and if by some miracle I did survive, I would not have the quality of life that I do today. So, if by reading my story, people consider people living in developing countries, and that makes them grateful for their own circumstances – than I’ll be a happy woman.
Sam Bailey. A quadriplegic living in rural NSW. After his accident, doctors told him that he wouldn’t be able to be a farmer – a dream of his since a kid. He’s now not only a farmer, but he’s a motivational speaker, an ultralight pilot AND he’s going to be the first person in the world to fly a helicopter! He’s most definitely my hero.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’ve got so many things that I want to achieve during my lifetime. Win an iron man. Climb Mount Everest. Sail around the world. Have a family with Michael. Get my doctorate. I think achieving all these things will keep me busy for the next couple of decades…
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Hmm. Well I’m not sure I can call myself a writer! I didn’t physically write the book, I had a brilliant ghost writer to do that.
Turia, thank you for playing