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.
While the story of Turia's survival involves many people - other race competitors, her rescuers, medical professionals - at its core is the strong will of Turia herself as she continues the long rehabilitation process with the loving support of her partner, Michael Hoskin, and that of their families in their New South Wales south coast hometown of Ulladulla, where the local community has rallied, raising funds to help with huge medical bills.
Everything to Live For is also a love story. Michael, Turia's handsome teenage crush who became the love of her life, now cares for her as they plan a new life together; he is there to encourage Turia in her determination to move forward in an outwardly different body.
The real tragedy of this story is that it should never have happened - because the race should never have happened.
Despite facing a future with multiple challenges, Turia is optimistic. She is driving again and studying for her Master's degree. She is walking in marathons and would one day like to run again. Above all, she wants her story to make a difference: her mission is to make skin a more prominent organ in the repertoire of donated organs.
It is a miracle Turia lived when she was expected to die. But Turia was not ready to die - she had too much to live for.
Turia Pitt has a double degree in Mining Engineering and Science. She worked as a model before landing her dream job with Rio Tinto at their prestigious Argyle Diamond Mine and moving to Kununurra with her partner, Michael. Their lives were turned upside-down when she was trapped by a grassfire in a 100 kilometre ultra-marathon in September 2011, and suffered burns to nearly 64 per cent of her body.
For now, she is living in her hometown of Ulladulla, surrounded by friends and family. She spends her time at physiotherapy, the gym, and is studying for her Masters.
Everything to Live For: The Inspirational Story of Turia Pitt
Random House Australia
Authors: Turia Pitt with Libby Harkness
Question: What do you enjoy most about being a ghost-writer?
Libby Harkness: The most enjoyable thing about being a ghostwriter is writing about other people's lives - from the ordinary to the extraordinary. This sort of writing is never boring.
Question: What inspired you to take this path of writing?
Libby Harkness: I have been a journalist and a non-fiction writer all my working life and ghosted my first book about 15 years ago; I was approached by a friend to write the story of a well-known actor's survival from breast cancer after the first writer pulled out. I enjoyed the process and slowly other people came to me with their stories.
Question: What was the most difficult part about working with Turia Pitt?
Libby Harkness: Writing Turia Pitt's book presented several challenges; the most difficult part was recording her voice. When I started she was still very fragile and I had no idea what she sounded like before she sustained her terrible injuries. Her memory about the sequence of events was also impaired and she had been in a coma for several weeks afterwards. To get the complete story, I interviewed everyone else involved in her life before, during and after the event.
Question: What did you learn from writing with Turia Pitt?
Libby Harkness: Turia's story was one of the most inspirational I have ever written; she taught me a lot about the strength of the human spirit. Her determination to turn a tragedy into a triumph is a powerful lesson to everyone.
Question: Why do you think people are able to open up to you?
Libby Harkness: I think people find it easy to open up to me because I am empathetic and non-judgemental. I am also a good listener and know the right questions to elicit the information needed to make a readable book.
Interview by Brooke Hunter