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Burn victim joins push for more live-saving donations

Burns victim, Turia Pitt after the Donate Life walk.

Burns victim, Turia Pitt after the Donate Life walk. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Skin retrieved from the bodies of three Americans helped save Turia Pitt's life.

While many Australians are aware of the importance of organ donation, it was donated skin that helped save Ms Pitt's life after she was horrifically burnt in 2011.

Ms Pitt was caught in a bushfire during the Racing the Planet Kimberley Ultramarathon, suffering burns to 65 per cent of her body and the loss of the fingers on her right hand and two on her left hand.

St Clare's girls near the end of the walk. Click for more photos

Donate Life Walk 2013

About 1200 people gathered at Regatta Point to take part in the Gift of Life's Donate Life Walk 2013 on Wednesday, February 27. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Ms Pitt said doctors had initially tried to use the artificial skin product Integra to cover her wounds.

"Unfortunately in my case the Integra didn't work so they had to get skin from America," she said.

But import restrictions meant that doctors had to battle to ensure the tissue would quickly clear customs and quarantine.

"My doctor just said to them, 'listen mate if you don't let the skin through she will die'," Ms Pitt said.

The former model and engineer, who lives in Ulladulla, participated in the annual Donate Life walk around Lake Burley Griffin on Wednesday to help raise awareness of organ and tissue donation.

Ms Pitt is not currently able to work as she focusses on rehabilitation and will require several operations over the next decade.

She urged people to let their families know whether or not they would be willing to donate their organs and/or tissue.

Gift of Life president David O'Leary called the walk an amazing success, with the attendance figure at more than 3000 people eclipsing that of last year.

"Going into the walk this morning to begin preparations it was raining pretty hard, and I had thoughts the numbers would dwindle compared with last year, but fortunately the weather improved around the time of the walk," he said.

According to ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher last year 30 Canberrans received life-saving organ transplants and 12 people donated organs.

A further 66 people received eye tissue donations.

She urged Canberrans to let their loved ones know of their decision to become organ donors.

"Experience to date shows that, if you want to become an organ and tissue donor, it's important to let your family know so that they can honour your decision if the situation arises."

DonateLife Week runs until Sunday. For more information go to www.donatelife.gov.au.

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