By Sophia Hatzis | Digital Content Producer at Wild Women On Top
Philio Georgiades went to bed just like she did every night. Nothing was different or out of the ordinary. She put her head on the pillow, closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, she woke up completely blind.
It was the scariest time of her life. Philio couldn't see shapes or shades or shadows. She couldn't make out figures. And she couldn't see the faces of her husband or her children. She was utterly terrified.
Philio has always had issues with her eyes and she'd recently developed an eye infection. Her condition deteriorated quickly and resulted in her losing her sight completely.
She saw an eye specialist and he had some devastating news. Philio's corneas had worn down to nothing, and there was a chance they wouldn't grow back. She was told to go home and rest, in the hope her corneas may grow back enough for an operation to be possible. It was a month of agonising waiting, wondering whether she'd ever see a sunrise again. Wondering whether she'd ever see her kids again.
There was a possibility her sight would never return and she would live the rest of her life blind.
When the month was finally up, she went back to her specialist. Her corneas had grown back just enough to warrant a risky, but crucial, operation. The surgery was successful and Philio had her sight restored.
Philio has to closely monitor her eyesight and she will never, ever take the gift of sight for granted, because she knows how quickly it can be taken away. It's why she was so passionate about participating in Sydney Coastrek and raising money for The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Philio knows how lucky she is. She could afford a life-changing operation. A procedure many men, women and children across the world can't afford.
"For me, it's very important to give back because I know what it's like to not be able to see," she said.
Philio and her team, Wild Women Walking, were the winners of Sydney Coastrek's Most Inspiring award in 2019 due to her extraordinary story and desire to make a difference.
Philio has fallen head-over-heels in love with walking in nature. She's having the time of her life, and is embracing the physical challenges, the adventure and the community of strong women around her.
You recently took part in Sydney Coastrek. What did Coastrek teach you and what made it so memorable?
The true heart of Coastrek is about teamwork, trusting, supporting, encouraging, and praising one another because together we achieve more! For me, this was a very personal journey. I lost my sight and was very lucky to get it back, so waking up every day and being able to see is a blessing. Sometimes life throws obstacles in our way, but it's how we deal with them that make us stronger. Coastrek was the perfect way for me to say thank you and give back.
What's the best hike you've ever done and what made it so epic?
My expedition to Patagonia was my first true hiking experience and it blew me away! No words can describe the sheer size, beauty, and ruggedness of the landscape. This is where I found my passion for adventure and now I go confidently in the direction of my dreams and live the life I always dreamed about!
Which hiking destination is at the top of your bucket list and why?
For me, the top of my bucket list would have to be Kilimanjaro. Why? Because life's biggest competitor is not the mountain, but the little voice inside me trying to tell me I can't do it. My biggest challenge would be to stop the chatter in my head and prove to myself that I can get to the top. I am strong, I am capable, I'm a women with more faith than fear.
What's the best hiking advice you've ever been given?
The best hiking advice I've been given is to put one foot in front of the other, slowly, surely, and deliberately all the way to the end. Have fun, enjoy the experience, and most importantly, always make sure you have the correct shoes and socks!