New year brings new hope for brave toddler
The new year will be taken one step at a time for Arna Hopkins and her family, with more surgery scheduled for the little girl.
Arna, 3, suffered severe burns to 50 per cent of her body in September, and spent almost six weeks having multiple skin grafts at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.
She had been lighting a candle for her twin sister Mila, who died of an infection in August, when she accidentally set fire to her clothes.
She was discharged from Hutt Hospital's burns unit at the end of October to begin the long and painful healing process at home with her parents near Martinborough.
Uncle Kane Hopkins said that, two months on, his niece had regained some of her personality despite receiving painful daily treatments.
"She's got her spirit back. Arna always had a really great sense of humour, and now we can kind of see that again."
She was able to move more freely as scarring over her joints healed, and her curly hair - which had won her the nickname, Fuzzy, at home - was starting to grow back.
She still has burns on her arms and legs, and wears a pressure suit and gloves to help the healing. A silicone bandage on her face covers her facial skin grafts.
"It's going to be a big part of her life, particularly over the next two to five years," her uncle said.
"She's now having to learn to deal with the seriousness of her injuries, and the stares and questions from other kids . . . For her now, it's all part of learning to live with it."
Arna is due to undergo more surgery at Middlemore Hospital in February to correct some of the less successful skin grafts.
She and her siblings Seb, 5, and Claudia, 5, spent Christmas with their parents in Omori, near Lake Taupo.
"It was a good time of being together and being happy and, for Regan and Penny, just to enjoy the kids' happiness and forget about it all for a short time," Mr Hopkins said.
Christmas marked the end of a crazy year for the family, and he singled out mum Penny's "strength of character". "She's an amazing woman."
The Dominion Post