Australian burns survivor Turia Pitt has revealed that the Australian bush fires that have raged in Western Australia for over a month now have given her recurring nightmares.
In an emotional post to social media the motivational speaker and Ironwoman, who was caught in a grass fire while running an ultra marathon in the Kimberleys in 2011, has admitted that she has not only had nightmares about running through flames with her son in her arms, but that she has also felt incredulous upon hearing that friends had been planning to stay put and defend their properties.
"I felt like shaking them," she wrote.
"'You have no idea!!!'" I wanted to scream.
"You have no idea that a fire sounds like a thousand road trains coming towards you. You have no idea how hot it feels, and that you will watch your skin bubble before your very eyes.
"You have no idea that the smoke will feel like it's invading every single one of your pores. And you have no idea that in those last few seconds where it's almost upon you that you will KNOW that you are about to die."
Turia received burns to 65 per cent of her body during her horrific ordeal. She spent a gruelling five months in hospital after her brush with death and has had over 200 surgeries since.
Despite what she has been through Turia has shown nothing but resilience, optimism and determination to live her life to the fullest. Turia went on to not only recover but have her first child, Havakai, with fiance Michael Hoskin in December 2017. The following year she returned to competitive running, and Turia is now eight months pregnant with the couple's second child.
This week she took to social media to share an emotional post about what she has witnessed in recent weeks, the trauma it has caused her and what she is doing about it: Turia has set up an Instagram page, @spendwiththem to support the businesses affected by the towns that have been ravaged by fire. She wrote:
"Fires had been raging up and down the South Coast for close to a month. People were evacuated from Bawley Point and Tabourie Lake. Milton was hit. Michael did food and supply runs in his boat. We watched as the sky went red and black days before Christmas.
"More fires broke out on New Years Eve. I watched, my mouth agape, as two angry plumes from the fires north and south of us joined together over Mollymook Beach.
"And then, the power went out. Mobile reception became spotty. Internet was down. Rumours swirled around town like the ashes that rained down on us. Embers in our backyards. Homes had been lost. Whole streets obliterated. A girlfriend's panicked text about her dad being trapped.
"I packed my go bag and filled the bath with water.
"Michael cooked bacon and eggs on the barbecue outside. Hakavai and I read books on the balcony. We watched as the fine grey smoke settled in on our beloved Mollymook Beach.
"At a quarter to eight, the evening was quiet. Not a peaceful and serene quiet, but an eerie quiet. An apocalyptic quiet. No one on their balconies drinking beers. No music blaring from our neighbours next door, or from the houses across the street. No revellers preparing to celebrate the new year. And it was dark. No power. No lights.
"First of all: I'm sorry that I haven't been more proactive in this time.
"It's been a tough few weeks for me emotionally. I've had to focus on not letting my emotions and own experiences get the better of me.
"I've tried to not let the panic genie out of the bottle (because once that genie's out, you've got zero chance of squashing it back in). And, I'm exhausted. I feel like I've done 10 marathons. And we can't relax because it's only the start of summer, and it's not over yet. So just like in a marathon, I've realised I have to pace myself.
"A lot of things have been tough," she admitted.
"Being 8 months pregnant with a toddler, I've felt as useful as tits on a bull. I've had recurring nightmares about running through flames with my son in my arms.
"It's been difficult to sleep, eat or think and all I've really wanted to do is tap out, put my head in the sand and pretend that nothing is going on."
Turia said that she had thought about leaving the town she lives in, Ulladulla, "multiple times".
"Why didn't I? People were stuck in their cars for hours. I saw terrifying footage of 30 metre high flames on the side of the highway at Sussex Inlet (a town just north of us and blocking the way out). And travelling south was like travelling into the jaws of the dragon.
She also revealed that she felt it was "not my place to flip out when people all around me have lost everything".
"I'm lucky - my family and I are safe and we haven't lost anything. Friends have lost homes, precious belongings. Lives have been lost."
But once "this" is all over, she continued, "it won't be... for many of the local businesses in fire-ravaged towns".
"A lot of these places (like Mollymook, Kangaroo Island, Eden) rely on the tourist dollar for their very survival."
Turia has set up an Instagram page, @spendwiththem, which features businesses in fire-ravaged towns.
"So, if you want to buy something (now, or in the future), check out @spendwiththem and buy something from one of these places," she encourages.
"Spend your money with the people and the communities who really, truly need it. They need you. We need you.
"This is a way to put money directly in the pockets of the people and communities who need it the most, and need it NOW."
Turia points out that "long after the threat is over and the choppers stop flying overhead... summer ends and the wail of sirens ceases in the streets" local businesses will still be suffering.
"Help them rebuild. Make them feel heard. Spend with them," she encourages.
Twenty people have now been confirmed dead as a result of the fires, and around half a billion animals are said to have died in the blazes.
As reported by Stuff, the devastating start to Australia's summer wildfires has made this season the worst on record. About 5 million hectares of land has burned and more than 1400 homes destroyed.
Sydney and Canberra have broken temperature records that had stood for 80 years as the mercury soared to 48.9 degrees Celsius in the western Sydney city of Penrith and 44C in Canberra over the weekend.
Some Australian families now have only the clothes they were wearing when they left their now-destroyed homes.
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