The family of a Kiwi woman whose hand was nearly severed during a sexual encounter that went wrong on a yacht in Croatia are hopeful she will make a full recovery.

Amy Ramage, 28, nearly died after being cut by the jagged edge of a handbasin which broke, reportedly while she was having sex on the yacht.

Ramage was rushed to hospital where surgeons in the city of Split worked for six hours to reattach her hand.

Ramage had been living in London for two years working as a freelance graphic designer in fashion.

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Dean Cousin, who helped Ramage find work at London agency Creative Recruitment, said he was "mortified".

"Her hands are her tools," he said. "That's how she makes her living. It's horrific to think she might not be able to use them again."

Cousin said he received a call from a friend of Amy's to say that she was in hospital and had had an accident.

She had been on a two-week yachting holiday in Croatia with a female friend where she reportedly struck up a romance with a British holidaymaker.

Cousin described Ramage as friendly and outgoing.

"She is one of my stars. She is such a beautiful young lady, she's absolutely stunning."

Ramage had been travelling regularly to Europe since moving to the UK where she was making up to $50 an hour designing fashion brochures.

"That was the whole point of her coming to the UK to freelance, so she could travel," said Cousin.

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Ramage grew up in Christchurch where her parents Anne and Reuben still live.

She studied graphic design at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology before moving to Brisbane where she worked for engineering firm Arup.

Her grandfather, from Christchurch, who asked not to be named, said he hoped she would be able to return to work.

Bojan Stanbuk was part of the team of surgeons who operated for six hours to reattach the tendons, arteries and nerves in the arm.

He told the Herald on Sunday that Ramage would have months of exercise and therapy ahead of her to regain full use of her arm.

"It was a tough operation," he said. "She is very lucky to be alive."

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Stanbuk said the operation was covered by insurance, and would have cost around $15,000. He said she had regained limited use of her fingers.

Her UK-based aunt, Vicky Allen, said Ramage was not prepared to speak to the media.

Croatian police are seeking the British tourist with her at the time. The couple are understood to have met in Croatia and ended up on a yacht called Anete in Palmizana Marina on the island of Pakleni Otoci.