The NZ Herald was in the air within hours of White Island’s spectacular eruption and captured stunning footage of New Zealand’s most active volcano. Video / Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust / George Novak
The teenage tour guide who suffered burns to 80% of his body during the Whakaari/White Island eruption has shared a dramatic photo of his first taste of fresh air in nearly three months.
The Bay of Plenty volcano erupted under Jake Milbank and his party members on December 9, his 19th birthday.
The eruption killed 21 people, including fellow tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman and Australian teenager Winona Langford, whose bodies have not been found.
Milbank needed 23 surgical visits to Middlemore Hospital, where he has been since the tragedy. A Givealittle page created to help her family financially is now over $145,000.
Via a social media account, Milbank shared a heartwarming photo and description of the first time in three months he had been out on March 1, when he got to see his dog.
“First thing on my list was to go see this little cutie who hasn’t seen me in 1.8 years.
“It’s so great to be back in the real world breathing in some fresh air.”
He also recounted the moment in an update to his Givealittle page on March 11.
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“I got to see my dog for the first time in almost three months, which was such an amazing feeling, and it was also my aunt’s birthday, so I got to spend the afternoon with my family to celebrate.”
The past 94 days have been “the hardest days of my life”, he said.
“But each one of them, I got stronger and stronger.
“I’ve had 23 trips to the theater so far, and more recently my nurses started changing my dressings on the ward and since last week I’ve started having my dressings changed in my own room in the ward. burns unit.
He said that now that his skin was fully grafted, his physiotherapy regimen became “increasingly intense as my skin grafts healed.”
“From walking on the treadmill to pumping iron [a 1kg weight in each hand] we see improvements every day.
“I’m finally starting to gain weight and I’ve gained 3kg in the last 3 weeks.”
Milbank was working for White Island Tours as a guide when the tragedy happened.
He sent a “huge thank you” to all those who supported him.
“I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped me get to this point, I couldn’t have done it without you all.”
In particular, he thanked his family, friends and colleagues for their tremendous efforts to visit him and keep him company during his hospitalization.
“My friends have been so awesome they have driven nearly 8 hours round trip from Whakatāne to see me most weekends and I have also had several visits from my colleagues at White Island Tours which has been tremendous.
“Words can’t even express how amazing my family have been, they’ve been so supportive, kept me company and brought me home cooked meals, I can’t thank them enough.
“I’m looking forward to spending more time out of hospital and possibly being home with my friends and family, but at this point we don’t know exactly when that might happen, which means for Right now, my main goal is to hit the gym with my rehab team.
“I look forward to sharing more good news regarding my recovery with all of you in the future.”
His social media post, with many describing the teenager as “an inspiration”.
“Jake you are my inspiration everyday,” one person said.
“Kia kaha, we are all behind you, you understand,” said another.
Milbank was first taken from Whakaari on a White Island Tours boat, which was skippered by Paul Kingi.
Kingi’s boat had left Whakaari before the sudden eruption, but bravely returned to assist the seriously injured.
Another survivor and tour guide, Kelsey Waghorn, also gave an update on her recovery this month after suffering 45% full-thickness burns to her body in the eruption.
She had spent 10 days in intensive care, including five in an induced coma after the island spewed out ash, steam and toxic gas.
“It has been the most difficult three months of my life, but I have learned how stubborn, strong and willful my mind and body are,” she wrote.
“Of course there were many times when neither was described above, but there were times. Not days. Not weeks. For that I am grateful.”
Waghorn also paid tribute to her friend and colleague Hayden-Marshall Inman, one of the 21 people killed in the eruption.
“Today marks three months since I lost a good friend, colleague, and many others lost loved ones. It will stay with me forever.”
As of March 4, three patients were still being cared for at Middlemore Hospital, one of whom was in critical condition.
Thirteen patients were transferred to Australia and six to other countries of origin.