Kelsey Waghorn posted a heartfelt message from her hospital bed. Photo / Provided
A tour guide seriously injured in the Whakaari/White Island eruption has spoken out for the first time, praising the medical staff who “literally saved my life”.
Kelsey Waghorn, a marine scientist, survived the tragedy but suffered burns to the full thickness of 45% of her body.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old released a heartfelt statement from her hospital bed, thanking everyone who had reached out or helped her family since the volcano erupted.
“And to those who have generously donated to my Givealittle, I’ve been reading your comments in small batches because the kindness is overwhelming.
“It’s hard to imagine the amount of love and support from people I’ve met at work, and even people I haven’t met.”
Waghorn spent 10 days in intensive care, including five in an induced coma after the island coughed up ash, steam and toxic gas.
She underwent more than a dozen operations.
“Thank you very much to the emergency services, doctors, nurses and surgeons who got me from the whakatāne wharf, through intensive care, to the plastics and burns unit.
“You have literally saved my life and ensured that I will continue to live a long and beautiful life. I hope 14 trips to the OR will be the only trips I will ever have!
The disaster killed 20 people, including fellow tour guides Hayden-Marshall Inman and Tipene Maangi.
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Hayden-Marshall Inman and teenage Australian tourist Winona Langford were confirmed dead by the Chief Coroner on Thursday. Their bodies are lost at sea.
“Thank you doesn’t seem like a word or words big enough for my family and my partner who have been by my side from day one, from the lows to the highs of ‘baby’s first step’.
“You’ve been through hell with me, and I’m at a loss for words to thank you all. I’ll keep moving forward, and hopefully that’s enough for now.”
Donations to Waghorn’s Givealittle page topped $100,000.
His companion guide Jake Milbank, who suffered burns to 80% of his body, is still hospitalized.
The 19-year-old recently posted an update on his progress on his Givealittle page, thanking the nation for their kindness.
“We are grateful for the kind donations received through the Givealittle page and I appreciate reading the awesome posts and comments that have come in, they have really helped me.”
Milbank wrote that his fingers were no longer bandaged, meaning he was now “able to use my iPad to catch up with my friends.