When Waikato plastic surgeon Deirdre Seoighe handed her baby to a colleague before heading into the operating room she asked them to page her when he needed breastfeeding.

The hospital's clinical lead for burns was on maternity leave when she was called in to help treat the patients injured in the tragic Whakaari/White Island eruption.

Baby Ruadhán was 3-months-old on Monday - the day the national devastation unfolded.

"He spent his three-month milestone being cuddled by all the staff. You could tell which staff too because they had dribble on their shoulder," Seoighe said.

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The Irish mum-of-four was at her two eldest children's singing class when she got a text from her husband alerting her to the eruption.

"I called the on-call team and they said they were expecting casualties. Then I got a phone call saying they were on standby and could I come in," Seoighe said.

Seoighe said she quickly arranged child care for her three other children before rushing to the hospital.

"None of us knew what to expect. The emergency doctors were in control.

Emotions run high for those missing and injured from the White Island volcanic eruption. Photo / File
Emotions run high for those missing and injured from the White Island volcanic eruption. Photo / File

"There was no sense of panic but more a sense of readiness and an element of anticipation in the air, everyone was calm and prepared and then the choppers started to roll in," she said.

Waikato Hospital is a level one trauma centre which means they have all the specialities under one roof.

On Monday night the hospital received eight patients in critical condition. Since then, two patients have been carefully transported to Australia, one to Middlemore Hospital and one has died.

Three patients remain at Waikato Hospital in critical condition.

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Seoighe has been one of the hundreds of hospital staff working through the night to give the eruption victims the best chance of survival.

"Everyone has just been amazing. My colleagues have put in huge hours and have done more than I have. Most of the people haven't been on call they just heard about it, they just arrive and offer their help."

Medical equipment to load onto a C-130J Hercules prior to a mission to repatriate Australians who have been injured from the White Island eruption. Photo / File
Medical equipment to load onto a C-130J Hercules prior to a mission to repatriate Australians who have been injured from the White Island eruption. Photo / File

She couldn't count how many hours she had worked this week but said there was eight operations performed on Monday night alone and several every day since.

"When Ruadhán was hungry I'd just scrub out and feed him, he was pretty quick to feed and then I'd go back in."

She said when she was operating she didn't know where her baby was but she trusted the hospital to take care of him.

White Island erupted on Monday afternoon. Photo / File
White Island erupted on Monday afternoon. Photo / File

"He was amazing, he was loving the fact he was being hugged and cuddled the whole night."

"It's lovely to hold a sleeping baby, it's kind of stress release."

Today, he is living in PICU, Seoighe said.

When asked what kept her going, Seoighe said knowing the families were relying on them to save their loved ones.

"When someone places their relative in your care and walks away that's a huge trust and I guess that's what gets us through. Along with the good results and community support.

"As a non-New Zealander I am very proud of New Zealand's response and how New Zealand has coped as country and as people."