Stephanie Browitt (pictured before the volcanic eruption) is her mother Marie’s only surviving child
A White Island volcano survivor who was left scorched and disfigured in the blast that killed her family has shared a message of encouragement for Victorians struggling through lockdown.
Stephanie Browitt is her mother Marie’s only surviving child after the family-of-four were torn apart in the eruption near Whakatane in New Zealand last December.
Along with grieving the loss of her father Paul and younger sister Krystal, the 24-year-old suffered burns to 70 per cent of her body and had her fingers amputated.
She now wears a full face mask to protect her mottled skin and has been cooped up in Marie’s Craigieburn home in Melbourne for the last eight months – since before COVID-19 gripped the nation and people were forced into their homes.
As Victoria ploughs through its second lockdown with record deaths recorded on Sunday, the young woman urged people struggling in isolation to enjoy spending time with their loved ones.
‘As someone who is grieving deeply and has essentially been in lockdown since early December … I truly believe that focusing on what you can’t change is wasted energy that could be used elsewhere,’ she told The Herald Sun.
Victorian police have been battling with Melbournians to enforce Stage 4 lockdowns, handing out 268 fines for breaches in 24 hours over the weekend.
The 24-year-old (pictured after the volcano with her dog) urged people struggling in isolation to enjoy spending time with their loved ones
White Island volcano survivor Stephanie Browitt (pictured) had her fingers amputated after the volcano
The number of active cases in Victoria has hit 7,854 with a record 17 deaths on Sunday.
Miss Browitt said it was okay for residents to feel upset and isolated as virus cases continue to surge, but added that she would do anything to have her father and sister in lockdown with her.
‘I feel as though people don’t realise how precious time is and that you don’t often get the chance to be with family like this.’
While she has had essential surgeries cancelled as a result of the pandemic, she reminded Victorians that lockdown will pass with ‘patience and perseverance’.
Her mother Marie, whose immune system is compromised fighting autoimmune diseases multiple sclerosis and Lupus, believed COVID-19 could kill her.
As the 24-year-old’s only surviving parent, Miss Browitt would be forced into a nursing home if anything happened.
The Victorian woman shared a picture after her skin graft surgery in July describing the agonising pain she has had to endure during her recovery
Ms Browitt has to wear a protective suit on her skin after suffering third degree burns to 70 per cent of her body
‘There are people out there, ignoring laws designed to protect their own family’s survival. I can’t comprehend it,’ Marie said.
The heartbroken mother said the pair still cry for Paul and Krystal daily, but joined her daughter encouraging Victorians to be proud that they can stay home and protect their loved ones.
Krystal, 21, and Paul were killed along with 19 other people when the volcano erupted on December 9, 2019.
When first responders arrived on the scene after the explosion, Mr Browitt urged them to save his girls before coming back for him.
Krystal was tragically killed in the initial blast, while Mr Browitt died later in hospital.
Stephanie (left with sister Krystal right) tragically lost her sister in the disaster and her father Paul
Ms Browitt (pictured with her father Paul) said despite the time that has passed, she remembers the eruption like it was ‘just yesterday’
Ms Browitt spent seven months painstakingly rebuilding her life and recovering in hospital.
She previously said despite the time that passed, she remembers the eruption like it was ‘just yesterday’.
‘Honestly, every time it’s the ninth of each month I can feel my heart racing and my body tense as the memory of it floods back in my mind,’ Ms Browitt wrote on Instagram.
‘I get anxious. I hate it so much, it does not get easier. It just hurts more and more when I think about how much time has passed since I was last with my dad and sister.’
She said she keeps wishing she could turn back time and at least have looked for her sister and father and sat with them during the aftermath.
‘We’re just picking up the pieces of our new lives and doing the best that we can do.
‘I just want to thank everyone for your kindness, compassion and constant support. You guys manage to put a smile on my face, even if just for a second.’