View Comments
Traumatised teenager now helps heal others
Megan Basioli. Picture: Lee Griffith/The West Australian

Most days, when Megan Basioli is doing her rounds, a patient will ask the young trainee nurse about the faint scars that lace her arms.

Her routine reply is matter-of-fact and gently dismissive.

"Usually, I'll say I was burnt," she said yesterday.

The full story behind those markings is something that Megan, the youngest WA survivor of the 2002 Bali bombings, has never spoken of publicly before.

The reason the 24-year-old recently decided to take up nursing at Royal Perth Hospital - where her past and future intersect in the labyrinthine corridors - is both tragic and inspiring.

There are shades of light and dark in Megan's smile, feather-faint touches of sorrow which make the bold streaks of hope and optimism all the more startling in contrast.

The pain of having a loving father killed by the bombers is there in her face, as is the legacy of a night of terror endured when she was just 14 years old.

But the light in her eyes that comes from the certainty of being loved and supported - gifts doled out by her brother Shane and mother Kelcy on the family's shared journey - wins through.

As the nation prepares to look back and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings on Friday - a terrible tragedy which claimed the lives of 202 people including 88 Australians - Megan and her brother Shane yesterday remembered the hurt of the past but also shared their hopes and dreams for the future.

Megan and Shane were taken to Bali by their dad Peter Basioli.

It was the first family holiday in a while that they shared with their father, a 44-year old wine merchant from Byford, who had also brought his partner Lee-Anne Boston and her 15-year-old daughter Nadine on the 10-day trip to the island paradise.

Megan said her dad was a quiet person whose care and consideration for his family and friends endeared him to everyone. The night that she lost him remains clearly etched in her memory.

It was October 12, 2002, and Megan said Nadine had wanted to visit the Sari Club.

Peter and Lee-Anne took the girls to the popular nightspot. They arrived minutes before the bomb went off.

Shane and Megan Basioli with a portrait of their father, Peter. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian.

"I remember dancing," Megan said. "A lot of people say they remember Paddy's going off first. I don't remember that. All I remember is a really bright light, and not being able to move, and then it just being deafeningly quiet."

Shane, then nine, said he remembered snippets of a week in the sun with his old man.

Those few precious memories of a fun-loving father, gathered with the innocent abandon of a small boy, are rare treasures that this young man now holds dear.

He was at the Kartika Plaza Hotel sleeping when he heard "a massive bang". He remembers creeping out of bed to discover the sky outside was on fire.

"It's my one vivid memory I have of Bali - I walked out on to the balcony and I could see a massive orange haze," he said.

When Megan came to, she was covered in rubble. Lee-Anne was lying unconscious on top of her. Megan woke her and the pair stumbled outside through the ruins of the Sari Club.

"I remember walking around thinking, 'Oh my God, what is this?' I had no idea," she said.

The late Peter Basioli with children Shane and Megan.

Lee-Anne sat Megan down in a side alley while she went back to look for Peter and her daughter.

"I don't know how long it was but Nadine ended up walking down the same alley," Megan said. "I remember some guy screaming and swearing and just running up and down."

It was only then that Megan realised she had been injured. Later, doctors would tell her she'd sustained burns to 37 per cent of her body.

"There was another guy next to me in a really bad way," she said.

"He rested his head on my shoulder. I had my burns. I said, 'Sorry, can you please get off me, that hurts so much'."

Lee-Anne came back without Megan's father.

"She said, 'Come on, get up, we have to go'. I remember walking and just being in excruciating pain and I was thinking, 'I can't walk any further'. And then some guy came and picked me up and carried me somewhere. And then it was just hell."

But amidst the waking nightmare Megan found something she could hold on to. It was the hand of a stranger.

Craig Settle, then 16, was in Bali on a surfing holiday with his dad and a family friend. He was sleeping in a hotel behind the Sari Club when the night exploded.

"From where we were, you could see a mushroom cloud, a fireball thing, going up in the air," he said.

The now 26-year-old Brisbane resident said the three of them ran down the alley, risking the growing fire, and began carrying injured people up to the carpark of the place where they were staying.

Picture: Lee Griffith/The West Australian

They rescued as many people as they could before the flames drove them back. It was only then that the horror and shock set in.

"Dad told me to find someone, stay with them and talk them through it," he said. "I turned around and Megan was lying on the ground."

Craig said that despite her injuries, Megan's thoughts were not for herself. "It was her dad that she was most concerned about," he said.

Megan remembers talking to Craig for hours while he held her hand. Megan said she asked him to promise her something. "I said, 'Can you please just stay with me?'"

So Craig did that. He remained with Megan until she was evacuated from Bali the next day.

And, in a way, he never left her as they remain friends to this day.

Megan's mother Kelcy Jackson arrived in Bali after Megan had been taken to Darwin. She collected Shane and returned to Perth in time for her daughter's arrival.

"The hardest thing was I couldn't give her a big hug because of the burns," Ms Jackson said. "I didn't know where to touch her."

Megan was taken to the burns unit in Royal Perth Hospital.

Her father was one of the last victims to be identified.

"I remember I kept asking, 'Where's Dad, have they found Dad?' I remember one night Mum came in and said, 'He's not coming home'."

Megan, who was discharged from hospital just before her 15th birthday on November 10, said losing her father while coming to terms with her injuries was her lowest point.

For the first few years of her recovery, she found it difficult to go out in public because she was self-conscious about her burns. But the love and support of her friends and her family got her though.

There was another group of people that Megan said played a big role in her recovery - the nurses at Royal Perth Hospital who watched her grow up and inspired her during years of medical treatment.

Ten years on, Megan now walks those same corridors in scrubs.

"After Bali, the people who cared for me had a real impact on my life, and I just thought it would be really amazing if I could have that impact on someone else," she said.

"The care and the support that I got from the nurses and the medical staff here at Royal Perth really inspired me to become a nurse."

She said Bali had given her words, which she in turn, passed on to her patients. Her message is simple and heartfelt. "To be able to see people and tell them, you'll get through, as hard as it seems now, you'll make it through," she said.

The siblings will return to Bali next week for the anniversary of the bombings. The memories are still raw and both said they would never stop missing their father.

Shane, now 19, broke down when he remembered the father who religiously watched him play footy.

He now feels some comfort at working in a tavern in Osborne Park which his dad co-founded with his brother.

Megan cried quietly when she recalled the day she graduated from high school, and the fact that her dad wasn't there for the father-daughter dance.

But smiles follow the tears. Good memories chase away the bad.

Megan knows better than most that some wounds can't be fixed with dressings and bandages.

But surviving Bali had given her a strength that she did not have before, and the knowledge that hope and happiness can return.

Five days a week Megan puts on her nurse's uniform, determined to heal her patients and herself.