A survivor of a volcanic island explosion which claimed the lives of her dad and sister has shared an image of her legs following multiple skin grafts.
Stephanie Browitt, 23, from Melbourne, Australia, suffered horrifying burns to 70% of her body and lost parts of her fingers in the blast on White Island while holidaying in New Zealand last December.
Her sister Krystal died in the explosion and dad Paul passed away a month later.
Stephanie has been documenting her road to recovery on Instagram and sharing stories about her dad and sister since March while she was still in hospital.
Sharing a photo of her legs on Monday Stephanie explained they were one of the last parts of her body to undergo skin grafts because medics had to wait for her ‘donor spots’ to be treated first.
She said: “In February I was still having skin grafts/surgeries done in hospital.
“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. I had another surgery on my legs and they took some skin from my thighs and behind my knee cap.”
Speaking about the pain she has endured during the process, she said: “Let me tell you, the donor sites are the most painful things I’ve ever experienced.”
After the surgery Stephanie 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 said.
“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. “
“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!'”
Stephanie said the nurse told her she had ‘determination in her eyes’ while holding back a ‘cheeky laugh’.
She added: “Honestly when I think of this moment it makes me laugh so much, but it also taught me 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. 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. “
Stephanie was with her mum, dad and sister on “a cruise of a lifetime onboard Ovation of the Seas” when the tragedy happened 48km offshore on December 9 at around 2.10pm.
More than 20 tourists from Australia, the US, Germany, China, Britain died and another 26 were seriously injured.
Stephanie’s dad Paul and sister Krystal was visiting the dangerous attraction, while Mum Marie stayed on the ship when the volcano suddenly erupted.
Stephanie and her dad, who were both in a coma, were flown separately to specialist burns units in the North and South Islands.
Paul died a month later and Stephanie spent five months in hospital before she returned home in May.
Local tourism authorities market White Island, or ‘Whakaari’, in Maori language, as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano”.
Despite an increase in volcanic activity tourists were allowed to visit the privately-owned White Island which runs daily tours and welcomes more than 10,000 people each year.
The volcano attracts volcanologists and thrill-seekers from around the world to walk across the island’s wild landscape, which includes active steam vents and bubbling mud pools.
It is one of the most active in New Zealand and erupted in a steam and gas explosion while visitors were on a day tour from a cruise trip in a nearby port.
Among the injured were Brits Liz McGill, 67, a retired social worker, and her daughter Heather, a product director, who both suffered severe burns