Burn victim undergoes grueling recovery


BLAKELY — Turia Pitt had no good choices when a wildfire trapped her in a gorge during a 100-kilometer marathon through the Australian outback.

She could run back the way she came, through shoulder-high grass that would fuel the raging flames. She could flee uphill — a route with less vegetation but a direction where fires tend to spread more quickly.

“I remember that split-second decision I had to make,” the 29-year-old said. “It wasn’t really much of a choice. I chose the hill. I started running. And when the fire finally caught me, I just remember looking down at my hands. They were both ablaze. I was screaming in sheer terror, and I remember thinking how unfair it is. I remember thinking, ‘I’m not supposed to go like this.’ ”

Ms. Pitt, a resident of Ulladulla, New South Wales, Australia, survived the September 2011 fire. On Thursday, she told employees from Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation facilities in Jessup and other offices about her struggles and triumphs after the debilitating injuries during an appearance at Fiorelli’s in Peckville.

Difficult recovery

The out-of-control brush fire seared 65 percent of the model, fitness-enthusiast and mining engineer’s body. Doctors needed to amputate seven fingers and induce a coma to keep Ms. Pitt alive. She also needed skin grafts, but the country’s supply of donations was depleted.

The Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation sent 100 grafts to Australia, with donors coming from the Philadelphia area, along with New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington, said George Herrera, vice president of donor services. Continue reading