A survivor from last year’s White Island volcano eruption has detailed her extensive recovery, providing details on one of her many surgeries.
Stephanie Browitt’s father, Paul, and her sister Krystal died following the eruption on the New Zealand island, while she suffered burns to 70 per cent of her body.
On Instagram, Ms Browitt, from Melbourne, explained how she was still having skin grafts and surgeries in February this year.
“One of the last places to receive skin were my legs because I didn’t have any spots left for them to take from, so they had to wait for my donor spots to heal so they could take more again,” she explained.
“My legs needed multiple surgeries before they were fully covered, so I’d be up and walking (sort of) and then I’d need another surgery and I’d be set back all over again.
“It was really upsetting.”
She said for one of the surgeries, skin was taken from her thigh and the back of her knee, saying the donor sites, where the skin was taken, was the “most painful things” she has experienced.
Following the surgery, Ms Browitt said one of her favourite nurses told her she would be walking in just two days.
“Me being in so much pain angrily said, ‘Nope’,” she recalled.
Two days later, Ms Browitt was scheduled in for the “much dreaded” physiotherapy.
“I have two of them helping me lean on my side and slowly stand up using a walker. That takes about 15 minutes, I’m already in tears from the pain and just wanting to be done,” Ms Browitt said.
“Then they want me to take some steps... because skin was taken from behind my knee I couldn’t bend my leg. I had slowly taken a few steps and then the burns nurse comes into my room and says, ‘I told you you’d be walking’.”
When the nurse said that, the pain turned into frustration.
“No. I don’t want to do this! I just want to disappear! I wish I could just hide somewhere ahh,’” Ms Browitt said.
“All the while I’ve bolted from my room out into halls to get away from everyone and she shouts, ‘Just remember you have to walk back again’.”
Ms Browitt admitted she was still in pain, but trying to hide a smile as she had just “surprised” herself.
“Once I’m back the nurse tells me, ‘I could just see the determination in your eyes as you got annoyed at me’, while holding back a cheeky laugh,” she said.
Now, looking back on that exchange with the nurse, Ms Browitt laughs, but she said the ordeal taught her something.
“Determination doesn’t always look the same in different situations. And even if you don’t realise it, it’s always there inside of you,” she said.
“You can do anything as long as you don’t tell yourself the opposite. I didn’t want to do physio because it was so painful... but when they came around I never said no.”
Since March this year while still recovering in hospital, Ms Browitt has used her Instagram account to document her recovery and shared stories about her father and sister.
On January 12 this year, Paul died with Ms Browitt and her mother Marie by his side.
“He passed away supported by his loving wife Marie and daughter Stephanie,” the GoFundMe set up for the family reported.
“Understandable the days, weeks and months following his passing have not been easy, with Stephanie still in hospital receiving treatment with ongoing skin graft operations and around the clock care.”
Ms Browitt’s sister Krystal was initially assumed to be missing, however on December 14 New Zealand authorities confirmed her death.
The volcano erupted in December last year, killing more than 20 people. Most were Australian tourists.
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