Dr Fiona Wood: On love, resilience and tragedy

Dr Fiona Woods

As the head of the burns unit at Royal Perth Hospital, Dr Fiona Wood treated victims of the 2002 terrorist attack in Bali. Dr Wood and her team of 60 worked for five days straight with 25 bombing victims.

Yesterday at a memorial service in Canberra, Dr Wood – who was named Australian of the Year in 2005 – gave an emotional speech on love, resilience and the courage of her patients.

We thought it was worth sharing…..

Distinguished Australians; all those Australians who 10 years ago distinguished themselves. All Australians, today is the day to look in to your heart, to look into your heart and find in it, the strength, the love and the human energy.

The strength of resilience, to face such horror, and to keep going, knowing there is a bright future ahead when we’ve seen the future of so many beautiful smiles snuffed away.

The love in their heart, that will offer that hand of friendship and forgiveness, and that energy to make sure that we all work, together, to make Australia a place we are proud of, a place we will share our privilege, we will make sure tomorrow is a better day.

As I look down that tunnel of time to that morning ten years ago when we heard the news, I saw many Australians doing many astonishing things.

From the Sari Club to the Sanglah hospital to tarmac at Denpasar into the Northern Territory’s triage centre that’s gone on to excel themselves year in and year out in this last decade.

To all the burns centres across Australia, to all the health facilities across Australia who stepped up to the plate. To all those Australians who helped people they didn’t even know, but what they did know was that they were in need at that time.

And of course it wasn’t just Australians as we have heard. Helping people was what we did. As a health professional it’s my educational training that puts me in that position of privilege, to help people when their life changes in an instant.

The most famous image from the night of October 12, 2002. Tom Singer later died in hospital.

I felt it was a privilege to help those lives on that day, and I tried very hard with all of my colleagues across the country and count not just those who were suffering, and those injuries, but those around them cause we know only too well the horror of burns, and the horror that that entails and the pain.

And that that’s a drop in the ocean, and its like a pebble that keeps going, and those waves effect all those around, all those that care for that person.

So as I look back through that tunnel of time over 10 years I see some amazing things. I think it’s a very appropriate time for us to stand and thank and respect that loss of energy, but also to celebrate, to care, and to celebrate what we go forward with.

I remember one patient a triathlete, a young woman, whose injuries were beyond comprehension and the first thing she said when she came out of her coma was, ‘I’ll never run will I walk again?

I said you will walk, you will run, you will race.

And in 2008 she beat me in an iron man in Busselton. I only rode the bike, and she did the whole thing. And her bike time was faster than mine. And there wasn’t a dry eye in Busselton that day, as we hugged coming over that finish line.

Portrait of survivor Phil Britten

Two weeks ago as I saw Phil Britten, explaining how getting out of the Sari club was so hard, and the pain of his injuries, but the pain of his recovery, was a mountain that was 10 times higher

I think the window to our world has been opened, and our community has seen and as a result they have helped. I think for me this 10 years is a time to say thank you, thank you to all Australians, all those distinguished Australians who facilitated the response.

All those Australians who distinguished themselves. And did extraordinary things. And all those in the communities, and individuals who went on to share that pain. And to support going forward.

So in the words of George Bernard Shaw, life is no brief candle, it’s a sort of flaming torch we have a hold of for a moment and we want to burn as brightly as possible before we hand it on to the next generation.

The official memorial in Kuta, Bali.

I see within those hearts, resilience that is inspirational. Love that is selfless. And an energy that as we work in our field to make sure that the quality of the outcome is worth the pain of survival, I see an energy across Australia, in all sorts of areas.

All you have to do is look for it. And to connect with it, and it will grow. So that we can pass on a history that we are proud of.

An Australia that we are proud of, borne on strength, resilience, love and raw human energy.

Doing the best we can for each other.