FEELING GOOD: Jake Milbank is being cared for at home by his mother and sister after leaving Waikato Hospital on Friday. Photo supplied

WHAKATANE tour guide Jake Milbank, who was critically injured in the Whakaari/White Island eruption, has been released early from hospital.

He said it was tough coming out of four months of virtual isolation in hospital back into self-isolation, but he was glad to be home.

“I was healing a lot faster I guess than they were expecting and then of course it was just a mad rush to get away from the hospital with all the virus stuff going around,” Jake said this week from his Whakatane home where he is isolation with his mother and sister.

Jake had been in Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital Intensive Care Unit and then the National Burns Unit, following the eruption on December 9. On Monday last week he was transferred to Waikato Hospital.

Jake’s father, Steve Milbank, said his son arrived home on Friday “a bit out of the blue”.

“We wanted him out of the hospital with the Coronavirus going off. I think they must have felt the same because I think the original plan was to send him to Waikato Hospital for four weeks, but he was only there less than a week and they sent him home on Friday,” Mr Milbank said.

“They are happy with that as long as he is all good and there are no issues, I mean with what is going on at the hospitals.”

“It’s pretty awesome, shame it is in the middle of a lockdown. It is hard going for him, but

I think he is just glad to be home. Mentally it is good for him.”

The 19-year-old said he was very happy to be home because with the restrictions around Covid-19 even his movement around the hospital had been limited.

“We were stuck up in the ward, we were not allowed to leave the ward and couldn’t even go outside and get some fresh air.”

He said his mum was helping him change his dressings and he was doing physiotherapy via Zoom with Whakatane physiotherapist Karen Hanlen.

“Mum [Janet Milbank] is doing all the dressing changes and moisturising that I need and then also I have a lot of pressure garments and things that I have to put on and she is having to do all of that stuff, so I am very lucky to have her doing all that.”

Jake received 80 percent burns to his body in the eruption and has undergone 25 trips to the operating room, he said on his Givealittle page.

“I am feeling good, it is good to be home and all my wounds are getting a lot smaller now and it is easier to jump in the shower when I want to.”

“My whole front and back was burned … the only bit that was really saved were my feet because of my boots and where my shorts were was kind of saved and that was about it.”

Jake’s hands were also badly injured. “I’m having to constantly stretch them out to stop them turning into claws.”

“I must say, my surgeons have done a remarkable job. I was told that when it came to possible infections, it wasn’t a matter of if, but rather when. I was fortunate enough to go this entire time without a single infection or setback, which is absolutely amazing,” he said on Givealittle on Friday.

“When I was first admitted to hospital my family were told that I could be in intensive care for at least three to four months, and that my stay in hospital could go on as long as six months or more.

“To be able to walk out of hospital in less than four months after sustaining 80 percent burns is almost unheard of, and I owe it all to my amazing team of doctors, nurses, physios and occupational therapists for getting me out in what must be almost record time. But most of all I owe it to my family, who have been with me every step of the way, assisting me with my cares and my every need.

Jake said he was keeping busy this week sorting out all his things. “I have got a lot of boxes and bags and things to unpack.”

He was also in contact with his friends online.

“A couple of them have shouted at me over the fence and said ‘hi’.”

Fellow Whakatane guide Kelsey Waghorn was discharged from hospital in March.

Jake’s discharge comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this week that the last patients remaining in the National Burns Unit in Middlemore as a result of the eruption had been discharged.

Forty-seven people were on Whakaari when it erupted, killing 21 people including Whakatane tour guides Hayden Marshall-Inman and Tipene Maangi. While most of those who died were recovered, Mr Marshall-Inman and teenage Australian tourist Winona Langford were lost at sea.

After the eruption, 13 injured patients were later transferred to Australia and another six to their home countries.

Kelsey in self-isolation at home

AT HOME: Kelsey Waghorn is taking extra precautions while in self-isolation at home because she is immune-compromised. Photo supplied

FELLOW Whakatane tour guide Kelsey Waghorn is in self-isolation with her partner after 65 days in hospital and 14 trips to the operating theatre and said on Instagram at the start of the lockdown that she was “stressed and scared”.

Ms Waghorn, who received burns to 45 percent of her body, spent 49 days in Hutt Hospital, including 10 in ICU, where she was in an induced coma for five days. She also had 39 days in the burns/plastics ward, she said in the latest update on her Givealittle page.

She was then transferred to Waikato Hospital where she spent 16 days.

She said her stay there would have been a lot shorter had she not fallen over on her first weekend leave, which landed her back in Whakatane A&E.

“Not exactly the way I’d planned on going back to see and thank the team there. Needless to say, my doctor back in Waikato was more than apprehensive about letting me have the following weekend at home. But we convinced her I’d learnt my lesson, and I was granted the next two weekends home.”

In her latest post on Instagram on March 23 she said she was supposed to be undergoing physiotherapy, “but I’m also not supposed to be in contact with anyone so appointments are rapidly being canned, moved to FaceTime, and I’ll be relying on Doctor Tom (not a registered doctor) to be all of the therapists and specialists”.

“I don’t know when I get to see my family next, because I don’t live with them, and because I’m immuno-compromised, the risk of a hug, a kiss or even just seeing each other could cause problems if one of us has contracted Covid-19 ….

“I was discharged on February 13th with the idea that I wouldn’t have any unplanned visits from medics until my two-week check-up back in Waikato,” she said on Givealittle.

“True to form, my body had other ideas. Before my first dressing change at home on the Monday following my release, I passed out in the shower. Twice.

“In doing so, I skinned my shin and traumatised my family for life (again). Cue the ambulance, IV line and a whole lot of blood pressure checks. Thankfully, other than a collapsed jugular vein and some oozy fingers, I haven’t had any other surprises.”
Ms Waghorn said on Givealittle she was happy to be home.

kathy.forsyth@thebeacon.co.nz