White Island tour guide allowed out of hospital on day trips

Wellington: A White Island tour guide caught in last year’s volcanic eruption on New Zealand's South Island is celebrating being allowed out of hospital after three months.

Jake Milbank suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body when Whakaari erupted on December 9 killing 21 people, including 14 Australians.

The 19-year-old was on the island for White Island Tours and was among those rescued by a company boat skippered by Paul Kingi, who had just left the island but came back to assist.

Jake Milbank was left with burns to 80 per cent of his body after the Whakaari/White Island eruption.Credit:Instagram/jake_milibank

He has been in hospital in Auckland ever since, but on Wednesday shared an Instagram post saying he was being allowed out on day release.

He said the first thing he did was to go to see his dog.

An image provided by visitor Michael Schade shows tourists and tour guides fleeing White Island (Whakaari) volcano.Credit:Michael Schade

"Such an awesome feeling to be back out in the real world breathing in some fresh air. I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point, I couldn't have done it without you all," Milbank wrote.

In an update on his Givealittle page, Milbank said the preceding 94 days had been the most challenging of his life.

"Each and every [day] I have been getting stronger and stronger."

He underwent 23 trips to operating theatre and said only recently he had started to have his dressings changed in his own room in the burns unit.

"I am now fully grafted, which means my physio regime has been getting more and more intense as my skin grafts heal.

"From walking on the treadmill to pumping iron, a 1 kilo weight in each hand, we are seeing improvements every day."

He has begun to gain weight and put on 3 kilograms in the past three weeks.

"My friends have been so awesome, driving almost an eight-hour round trip from Whakatane to see me nearly every weekend.

"I have also had quite a few visits from my colleagues at White Island Tours, which has been great."

His family had been keeping him company and bringing him home cooked meals and he said he could not express how amazing they had been.

"I am looking forward to spending more time out of the hospital and eventually being home with my friends and family.

"At this stage we are not quite sure when that might be, meaning that for now my main focus is getting in the gym with my rehab team."

Kelsey Waghorn, also tour guide, shared her recovery journey last month. The 25-year-old suffered burns to almost half of her body, and is learning to use her hands again.

Milbank, who was initially in a special pressurised and temperature controlled pod while he underwent treatment for burns, moved from the Intensive Care Unit at Middlemore Hospital to the National Burns Centre in January.


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