Maddi Scordia, 25, was chasing her passion prior to Covid-19, travelling overseas and working as a grid girl for motorsport events.
She was in the UK at the start of 2020 when the world started shutting down but managed to return home to Sydney, Australia.
In November 2020, after leaving her job, Maddi was holidaying with friends in Adelaide when South Australia went into lockdown and, weighing up their options, the group decided to stay.
November 19, is a date Maddi will remember forever.
She and her friends had a fire going in the backyard of the home they were renting in Adelaide when the backyard fire pit "seemingly exploded" and set Maddi on fire for more than 20 seconds.
"I had elastane in my clothing. Because the fire was a methylated spirits-started fire it really grabbed on to that elastane," she told Yahoo News Australia.
"In that surreal moment I screamed "I'm on fire" and fell in excruciating pain."
She jumped in the backyard swimming pool and waited there until the ambulance arrived some 10 minutes later.
Maddi was then taken to the shower and paramedics gave her a green whistle.
About 60 per cent of her body was covered in burns — from her upper chest, to the middle of her torso, arms and ankles.
But at the time, Maddi was in shock, oblivious to the extent of her injuries.
"As horrendous as it was, there was skin hanging off of my body and I was completely just oblivious to it," she said.
Hospital staff became like 'family' after months of recovery
The green whistle is the last thing she remembers from November 19. She woke up three days later in the ICU at Royal Adelaide Hospital, not realising her legs were burnt.
"It really didn't register until about maybe 18 days later when I started to walk again, and this was before I had any skin grafts and whatever else," Maddi said.
She stayed in hospital for three months, and fortunately, her friends didn't leave her side. They rented a house and brought her food every day, so she wouldn't have to eat the hospital food.
"I was very fortunate that they stayed with me and I felt very blessed as well because I don't know how many friends would do that," she said.
Her father was able to come visit her once from NSW, but Covid forced the borders to shut again and the only person she was able to see was her sister, who lives in Queensland.
During her recovery, Maddi said the staff at Royal Adelaide Hospital became like family, supporting her and encouraging her.
She received specialised treatment for the burns, a process where her wounds were held open with silicone for weeks and underneath the foam, blood vessels were able to regenerate.
This ensured the skin graft would take and her wounds would eventually look better.
While Maddi marvelled at the treatment she received, she said it was painful having thousands of staples in her body for weeks as she awaited the skin grafts.
"I think I was walking within 19 days of my accident and it was painful and all those sorts of things, but I think for the majority of my hospital stay I had a very, very positive outlook," she said.
However, the extent of her injuries was fully realised when she had the skin grafts on her legs. For Maddi, the toughest part of her hospital stay was the last few weeks.
"It's kind of confronting because it's the time that you realise you're about to leave this really safe, secure environment when no one's looking at you, everyone's praising you for being yourself and doing so well," she said.
Though she was dying to get home, Maddi was scared of what was to come and where her life would take her.
Deepest beauty on the inside, Maddi finds
Before the accident, Maddi was very confident in her looks.
"I think as you age you tend to be less in love with yourself and more in love with your life and that was a lesson I learned kind of rapidly because what my looks were was just kind of taken away in terms of my body," she said.
Initially she avoided mirrors, though her recovery taught her a valuable lesson about how she perceived herself.
"I called my best friend Sarah and I was like, 'I'm so sorry, I'm a burden', and it wasn't a cry for help, it was a genuine apology," Maddi admitted.
"I was surprised that my friends liked me for who I was. I think the expectation that had been put on me my whole life, that I had put on myself, was that people aren’t going to like you unless you’re certain way."
Through her recovery, Maddi learned her friends loved her for who she really was.
There were times throughout the past year where Maddi was depressed and she said there were points where she wanted to end her life.
"I'm very fortunate that I have a really loving mum and dad who have been there for every step of it and just made the time to listen to me cry and listen to me say things that I can't believe I would say," she said.
It's been just over a year since the accident, and Maddi has found many reasons to live.
"When you almost die once, you realise that life is incredibly short but you have the option to invent it for yourself," she said.
"And if it doesn't make you happy throw it away. And believe me that's that's a lesson I've only just recently learned."
While she works as a Sales & Marketing Consultant at Comexposium, Maddi also is the co-founder of Love My Ride, a business she started mid-2020 and goes hand-in-hand with her passion for motorsports.
She and her business partner, Ryf Quail, "rustled up the business out of nothing".
"It's been really great to watch the business grow little by little. We're not huge by any means, but people know we exist which is really cool," she laughed.
Maddi said she missed working as a grid girl and she will eventually be getting back overseas and working on the track.
The past year has by no means been easy for Maddi, however she said the more you push through, the easier it gets.
"The sun kept coming up every day and so did I, and eventually I was like, 'I love my life, it's good, it can be whatever I want it to be'," she said.
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