White Island volcano survivor Stephanie Browitt tells how a gift from 12 strangers saved her life

A young woman who survived the volcanic disaster on White Island has revealed how 12 strangers gave her a life-changing gift for which she will be eternally grateful.

Stephanie Browitt, 25, was exploring the island with sister Krystal, 21, and their father Paul when a volcano erupted off the coast of New Zealand’s Whakatane in December 2019.

She suffered third-degree burns to 70 percent of her body and was in a coma for three weeks, but her father and sister were among the 22 dead.

Mrs. Browitt’s mother Marie was the only relative who stayed on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship and watched in horror as the volcano erupted.

Stephanie Browitt, 25, (pictured) was with her sister Krystal, 21, and their father Paul when a volcano erupted off the coast of Whakatane in New Zealand in December 2019

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Ms. Browitt explained how 12 complete strangers saved her life by generously donating their skin.

“I was very badly injured, very badly burned and I knew that because I could see my body shutting me down,” she said.

“That gift means everything to me, they gave me my life.

“Every day I think about that and how my life depended on the availability of that donation.”

The donations allowed Ms Browitt to undergo countless excruciating but life-saving skin grafts at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital.

But a shortage of skin donors when the young woman arrived at the hospital forced doctors to rely on tissue from the other side of the world.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Ms. Browitt revealed how 12 complete strangers saved her life by generously donating their skin

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Ms. Browitt revealed how 12 complete strangers saved her life by generously donating their skin

Skin donations from 12 complete strangers allowed Ms Browitt to undergo multiple life-saving skin grafts at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital

Skin donations from 12 complete strangers allowed Ms Browitt to undergo multiple life-saving skin grafts at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital

Ms Browitt explained that most of the fabric came from the US, a similar story for the victims of the Black Saturday bushfires and the Bali bombings.

She said donor skin had to be readily available in Australia to ensure that those affected by such catastrophic events still have a chance at life.

DonateLife chief executive Lucinda Barry said the number of people in need of skin donations has skyrocketed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Barry explained that border closures and overcrowded intensive care units made the already difficult donation process logistically nearly impossible.

“We’ve seen a 16 percent decrease in the number of organ donors, which has led to a 12 percent decrease in the number of people getting a transplant,” she said.

Ms Barry said that in 2020 about 150 fewer people will have received a kidney transplant.

Due to a shortage of skin donors when the young woman arrived at the hospital, doctors had to rely on tissue from the other side of the world, namely from the United States

Due to a shortage of skin donors when the young woman arrived at the hospital, doctors had to rely on tissue from the other side of the world, namely from the United States

Ms. Browitt has candidly shared her lengthy recovery process with the world by posting updates to her followers on her social media accounts

Ms. Browitt has candidly shared her lengthy recovery process with the world by posting updates to her followers on her social media accounts

Ms. Browitt candidly shared her lengthy recovery process with the world by posting regular updates on her social media accounts.

The 25-year-old recently promoted DonateLife Week on her Instagram, encouraging her 58,000 followers to become an organ donor.

“I wouldn’t be here without the organ and tissue donors of others,” she wrote.

“Thanks to several people who donated their skin, they saved my life. I never predicted that my life would be in the hands of strangers, yet it happened.

“My body and my life are a testament to the kind decision of several strangers. I wouldn’t be alive today without those compassionate people.’

When asked what she would say to the families of those who donated their life-saving tissue, Ms. Browitt lost her words.

The 25-year-old recently publicized DonateLife Week on her Instagram, encouraging her 58,000 followers to become an organ donor

The 25-year-old recently publicized DonateLife Week on her Instagram, encouraging her 58,000 followers to become an organ donor

“I don’t think anything I could say would express my gratitude enough, there are no words. I couldn’t be more grateful, more grateful,” she said.

Ms Browitt described organ donor registration as one of the most “rewarding” and “beautiful” decisions a person can make.

“You give someone the gift of life and that’s one of the most precious things you could ever do, how can it get any better than that?” she said.

The Whakaari volcanic eruption in December 2019 claimed the lives of 22 people, including 14 Australians.

The blast happened while voyages to White Island were underway and despite warnings of an eruption danger.

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