Mum’s miracle escape – How a jar of pasta sauce saved my life

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Brooke took desperate measures when she was lost in the desert…

Here, Brooke Phillips, 40, tells the story in her own words.

Packing up, I gulped down half a bottle of water and threw it in the back of my car.

I’d just finished a contract in an outback community.

While I waited for details of my next post, I was going to stay at my partner Troy’s house, around 70kms away near the WA, NT and SA borders.

‘Just follow the one road,’ Troy said. ‘It should take you just under an hour.’

At the same time, Troy was going to be working away. ‘I’ll see you in five days,’ he said.

So with my cat Shadow and pup Bank by my side, I set off into the wilderness.


After driving for about half an hour I came to a sign pointing to the left.

‘That’s the one,’ I said.

Singing along to the radio, I focused on the road. But when I glanced down at the clock, my heart stopped.

I’ve been driving for a few hours… I must’ve taken a wrong turn! I worried.

With no phone reception, I decided to head back.

An hour later though, my tyres suddenly lost traction, unable to grip the sandy road.

I put the car into reverse, but the wheels stuck, flinging me backwards up a small mound on the side of the road. I’m bogged in the middle of nowhere! I realised.

Noticing tyre tracks, I thought someone would be along soon. But as the sun began to set, I strung old towels along the windows.

To keep us cool in the morning, I thought.

Grabbing my bottle of water, I guzzled the last 500mls.

With over half a tank of petrol left, I flicked on the air-con, reclined my seat and closed my eyes for the night. The next morning, I peered up and down the road. Nothing, I puffed.

Getting on my knees, I used my hands to try and free my tyres from the sand… but it was no use.

‘I’m sure someone will be here soon,’ I told my pets confidently.

My pup Bank and cat Shadow were my only companions

Checking my boot, I had pasta sauce, condensed milk, a tin of tomatoes, coconut cream, red cordial, lemon juice, some instant noodles and a box of crackers.

In the 40-degree heat, sweat trickled down my forehead. I want liquid! I thought.

Cracking open the tomatoes, I brought the can to my dry lips. Yum! I devoured the liquid, then gave the chunks to my pets.

Knowing we should stay with the car, we sat in the air-con listening to the radio.

As two days ticked by, we sat tight and continued to gobble down the food.

On day three, I suddenly felt a drop on my skin. ‘Rain!’ I screamed.

Jumping up, I placed two bowls on the ground.

Then I watched intently as they began to fill.

Unable to wait any longer, I quickly sculled the water and put the bowl back.

With Troy
My partner Troy and me

By the time the clouds cleared, I’d only collected 100mls, but as it slid down my throat it was incredible!

By day four, I was feeling frustrated – plus smelly, thirsty and hungry.

I took two bites of a cracker before throwing the rest to my pets, but the dry biscuit stuck to the roof of my mouth.

‘Doesn’t anyone love me!’ I screamed into the empty desert.

Twisting open the pasta sauce, I tried to wash the dry cracker down my throat. I dreamed it was drizzled over a huge bowl of pasta.

After a few lifesaving sips, I called Bank to enjoy the rest.

‘It’s not my last day on earth just yet,’ I told Shadow, rubbing her ears and concocting a plan.

Popping my car’s bonnet, I grabbed a T-shirt from out of the car.

Then I twisted it, dipped it into my windscreen wiper fluid and squeezed it into a bowl.

Taking a huge sip, I instantly began coughing up the soapy liquid.

As the sun rose on day five, I hit survival mode and started collecting my urine. Desperate, I held my breath, took a sip and managed to swallow it. Will I ever be found? I thought, breaking down. Then my car stopped humming… I’d run out of fuel!

Day six crawled past as I sat exhausted in the blistering car, unable to move.

Suddenly, I caught something moving in my rear mirror. It was my 16-year-old daughter, Imogen. ‘Mum!’ she screamed, hurtling towards me. ‘Water,’ I wheezed as she hugged me.

Surrounded by three women, I was handed bottle after bottle, as I guzzled them down.

daughter Imogen
I was so happy to see my daughter Imogen

Embracing my girl, I was helped to the Blackstone Clinic and treated for dehydration.

As we hardly ever had phone reception, it wasn’t unusual for my family not to have heard from me. But after six days, Troy had raised the alarm two hours earlier when he discovered I’d never made it to his place. 

I can’t thank the three local women, Jenni, Angeliya and Jennifer, and the Blackstone Police enough for launching a search. They saved my life, plus my pets.

Now I always make sure I have a few litres of water in my car, because you never know what can happen!

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life, on sale now.

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