Turia Pitt: "When people say they feel sorry for me, I don't really get it."

Ultramarathon runner and burns survivor Turia Pitt has turned her focus to raising funds for a charity which helps patients in developing countries.

In 2011, while running an ultra marathon through the Kimberley in Western Australia, Ms Pitt was trapped by a grassfire, unable to be rescued for four hours.

After suffering catastrophic burns to 65 per cent of her body, Ms Pitt has become a national hero.

“If I’d watched myself on TV, before my accident, I would have thought there’s no way I could do what that girl is doing,” Ms Pitt told Deborah Knight on 702 ABC Sydney.

“And yet, it’s in those times of trauma you find those reserves of inner strength.”

Turia Pitt

Rather than focusing on the scars covering her body, she says that the tragic accident may have been the best thing to happen to her.

“A lot of people find it kind of bizarre, but my life is incredible,” she said

“I’ve got an amazing partner, beautiful family and friends. I live in one of the best places in Australia in Ulladulla.

“So when people say they feel sorry for me, I don’t really get it. I don’t feel sorry for myself at all.”

Related content: Turia Pitt: I thought I’d wake up in the burns unit. Instead I woke up in ICU.

As well as the extensive burns, she also had four fingers from her left hand and right thumb amputated.

Ms Pitt’s burns were so horrific, a paramedic from her hometown failed to recognise her when she first arrived on the scene of the fire.

“I said to her ‘hey Bonnie, how are you?’ and she just gave me a blank look because she didn’t even recognise me.

“When I said ‘it’s me, it’s Turia’, I noticed a tear start rolling down her face.

“I guess a part of me thought I’d be back at work on Monday, but a part of me knew that my life would never be quite the same again,” Ms Pitt said.

Related content: Turia Pitt has everything to live for. This is her story.

Since then, Ms Pitt has had more than 200 operations, including her most recent during which doctors removed skin from her forehead to construct a new nose.

She estimates she will need four major operations a year for the next decade, but for now, she feels blessed to be independent again.

Especially when it comes to her relationship with partner Michael Hoskin.

“For over three years, Michael was my full-time carer, and that took an enormous toll on our relationship,” Ms Pitt said.


“Now we’re back to being boyfriend and girlfriend and it’s fun. We have our own space and our own independence, and that’s been really good for us.”

Supporting the Interplast charity

As well as travelling the country as a motivational speaker, Ms Pitt is now working to raise funds for Interplast, a charity that helps burns victims in developing countries.

“I feel so blessed to live in Australia; we are so bloody lucky in this country,” Ms Pitt said.

“We’ve got one of the best medical systems in the world.

“If I would have had my accident in a developing country, like Laos, then I would be dead.

“There’s no what ifs or questions – I would be dead, full stop,” she said.

Ms Pitt’s plastic surgeon Professor Peter Haertsch has volunteered for Interplast every year for the past two decades, working in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.

Last year Ms Pitt visited Laos in 2014 to see firsthand how these simple life-changing operations are affecting local burns victims.

Related content: Finally justice for burns victim and marathon runner, Turia Pitt. 

Her goal now is to raise $400,000 this year, through a gala event and by walking the Inca Trail.

Despite the ongoing physical recovery, she is also dedicated to her fitness.

Ms Pitt has already competed in a half marathon, and is now training for an Ironman competition next year, but it is the mental scars which are not so easy to heal.

“Whenever I smell smoke, immediately I think about that day – and I don’t think that’s ever going to change,” Ms Pitt said.

“But I’ve just accepted it, and whenever I smell smoke, I just tell myself ‘it’s OK, you’re just at a barbecue, nothing’s going to happen.”

Ms Pitt believes an important part of her recovery has come from the people who support her.

“I’m really lucky to be surrounded by people that love me, that believe in me, that tell me anything is possible, and tell me I’m beautiful,” she said.

“All of those things have helped me to have such a strong sense of self-belief.”

That sense of self belief drives Ms Pitt every day.

“I am very proud of who I am and what I’ve done.”

This article was originally published by ABC Online