If you are a fan of TEDx Talks and public speakers in general, you’ve likely come across Turia Pitt, an Aussie burn victim with an inspiring story and a witty sense of humor. If not, you’ve probably seen her on television, read one of her books, or attended one of her online programs.
Turia Pitt is a survivor who defeated near-impossible odds to become the successful woman she is today. This is Turia Pitt’s story.
Doctors didn’t expect Turia to survive her 65% burns
Over a decade ago, Turia worked as a mining engineer in the Kimberleys and harbored dreams of becoming the CEO of a global firm. “That never happened,” she told The National Press Club in Canberra.
Pitt was competing in the ultramarathon 100 km when she was trapped in a large bush fire. Suffering from 65% burns, Pitt needed help from other competitors in the marathon.
“I remember the hot Kimberly sun beating down, burning my already burnt skin,” Turia wrote on Instagram in September 2021. “I remember accidentally sitting on a bull ant nest. Staring in confusion as the ants started swarming across my legs.”
Turia wrote that she remembered seeing bits of her skin on the rocks and spinifex. The running group tried to construct a shade for her and Kate Anderson, another burn victim.
Pitt’s panic grew as the hours passed, with no sign of help on the horizon. Mercifully, the sun started setting, introducing a cold breeze in the air. Salvation came through the sound of an approaching helicopter.
The helicopter took Kate before returning for Turia. Pitt didn’t know that the pilot Paul Cripps risked his life to get to her and Kate. Turia said (per 7News):
“He [Paul] was my savior. He had rescued me from a literal life or death situation. I also didn’t know how dangerous it had been for him to fly down the gorge to us. That balancing the chopper on one skid was the result of sheer gutsiness and extreme skill.”
At the hospital, the assessment was grim: doctors didn’t expect her to survive. They placed her in a coma for a month and amputated all the fingers on her right hand and two on her left.
She spent six months at the hospital, underwent over 200 operations, and spent two years in recovery, wearing a full-body compression suit and mask to smooth out the scars on her face and body.
Pitt sued the race organizers RacingThePlanet and obtained an out-of-court settlement from them.
Pitt’s fiance bought her engagement ring while she was in intensive care
Pitt and her fiance Michael Hoskin met at school. Turia wrote on Instagram that as she waited for help during that dreadful September day, thinking of Michael kept her going:
“I remember thinking about Michael, my Michael. I remember telling myself, ‘Think of his warm face, think of his honey voice, think of his golden skin. Keep thinking about Michael.’”
At the hospital, doctors told Hoskin that Turia looked different – they’d shaved her pumpkin-sized head. Per a 20th December 2021 blog post on Turia’s site, Hoskin resolved to marry her if she survived.
Using his inheritance, he bought an engagement ring featuring a diamond from the mine Pitt worked in.
Hoskin supported Turia during her recovery, making her feel guilty for ‘derailing his life.’ She told Brittany Hockley and Laura Bryne on the Life Uncut podcast that she tried pushing Michael away, but he wouldn’t budge:
“He’d be there every day, he’d show up in the morning at 7.30 and sometimes I’d be like ‘What are you doing here? Go away! I don’t want you here!’ because I just felt so guilty and I felt like it would be easier for me if I didn’t have anyone who loved me.”
Four years after the accident, Michael proposed during a trip to the Maldives. “I’ve always loved diamonds – they’re literally the hardest stuff on earth,” she wrote.
Taria lost the ring during a trip to the south of France. She hid the loss from Michael for as long as possible, but he eventually figured it out. The pair were disappointed, and to get over the hurt, she decided to focus on the good times she shared with her precious diamond. Turia wrote:
“It had a great (albeit short) life. It was with me through the best times – it came to Tahiti, the Maldives, watched me finish at Ironman Kona, walked the Kokoda Track with me and, best of all, it was there to give Hakavai a metallic welcome to the world.”
Turia and Michael share two sons: Hakavai Hoskin and Rahiti Hoskin
“I want my son to be resilient,” Turia told Women’s Weekly while pregnant with Hakavai. “I think that’s the most important thing.”
She told the outlet that she expected Micheal to be a great father: “I’m not worried about Michael at all as a dad. He’s got that paternal instinct.”
“I’m excited for the baby, but it still seems surreal,” Turia said. “Until I’m pushing the baby out, it won’t be real!”
The couple welcomed Hakavai Hoskin in December 2017 and Rahiti Hoskin in February 2020. The brothers occasionally appear on Turia’s Instagram page.
Pitt said that sometimes living with her scars gets difficult
Turia decided not to wallow in her misfortune and instead took control of her narrative. “I rewrote my story,” Turia told The National Press Club in Canberra. “I reinvented myself.”
Pitt said that she persevered through challenging rehabilitation by taking one step at a time. “I realized I couldn’t think too much about what my future would look like… And so I choose to literally just focus on one step at a time,” she said.
Turia believes in positivity but admits that some days are tough. She detailed an incident where she struggled to pick change from a ticket seller in a New York subway station, holding up the line and drawing a violent response from the ticket seller.
“In that moment it felt as if all the work I had done up to that point was futile because I couldn’t do this simple, ordinary task of taking my change for my subway ticket,” Turia said.