She's the boss

FEW people would have believed the tiny burned baby rescued from a blaze in a Chantry house seven years ago would have lived to see her second birthday, but Terri Calvesbert has grown up to be a cheeky eight-year-old who loves school and has just been to her first school disco.

FEW people would have believed the tiny burned baby rescued from a blaze in a Chantry house seven years ago would have lived to see her second birthday, but Terri Calvesbert has grown up to be a cheeky eight-year-old who loves school and has just been to her first school disco. SARAH GILLETT found out what Terri's been up to during the last few hectic months - and what the future has in store.

DANCING around to her favourite CD in her bright pink bedroom, Terri Calvesbert looks a picture of happiness.

For most eight-year-olds, having a stranger wave a giant camera in their face would be an intimidating experience, but Terri willingly drags her favourite toys and books out for our photographer, laughing and joking all the while.

Over the last few years she has become used to the spotlight. As her moving story of surviving burns to 85 per cent of her body has touched the hearts of people all over the world, TV appearances and encounters with celebrities have become frequent and fun occurrences.

Dressed in pretty embroidered jeans and a pink

T-shirt, chosen by her with help from her grandma, Terri is a little girl growing up fast.

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Her dad, Paul, said she is very clever for her age. Although deaf in one ear as a result of the drugs pumped into her to save her life in hospital in November 1998, she is an astute lip-reader who never misses a word of a conversation.

If you had to sum Terri up in one word you would be hard-pushed to do better than the slogan splashed across the front of her T-shirt which simply says 'Attitude'.

As soon as the photographer disappeared out of the door, Terri grabbed her blonde wig from her head and declared to her dad: “I'm not wearing that any more!”

And while the injuries to her face can sometimes make it difficult to determine her expressions, there is no mistaking the mischievous twinkle in her eyes and her infectious giggle as she playfully bosses her dad around.

Paul said: “She's very determined and will always tell you exactly what she's thinking. If something's not right she will soon tell you. She's always the one at the centre of her group of friends, bossing people around!”

Because so many of Terri's remarkable achievements have been played out in the public eye, the smaller, more private milestones that face every eight-year-old can often be overlooked.

In September, she moved up to junior school, where she has made many friends and thoroughly enjoys her classes.

When the Star caught up with her during the half-term break she was only two days into the holiday but already missing school.

“I enjoy school. I want to go back already!

“My teacher is lovely, but she does make us do a lot of hard work,” she laughed.

Paul said: “She's doing really well at school and is very good at reading. She doesn't like maths very much but she can pick up a book and read it with no problem.

“She went to her first disco there the other night.”

Like many girls of her age, Terri is now beginning to take an interest in music and even joined the school choir last term.

Paul said: “She absolutely loves her music and is always dancing round the house.”

The obstacles that Terri has had to overcome so far in her life are unimaginable, but she does not let her injuries stand in her way and is very independent. Her CD-player is one of her most-treasured possessions and, despite having no fingers on either hand, she has learned to get CDs in and out of the machine with ease.

But despite her courageous spirit, the severity of her injuries mean that she will need a series of operations over the coming years and will continue to have to go and have her skin “released” occasionally because it becomes tight as she grows.

The next big step will be the creation of a proper pair of ears, which will serve a functional purpose by giving a hearing aid something on which to rest.

Paul said: “We are going to see the surgeon at the Mount Vernon Hospital in Middlesex in April to see what they are going to do.

“Although she is a very good lip reader at the moment, there are problems if she is in class and the teacher is not facing her and things like that.”

After Terri has got her new ears, the next step will probably be a new nose, but doctors are reluctant to do this until she has grown a bit more as the nose would not grow with her.

Paul said: “Last year was an eventful one for all of us. We went to the Pride of Britain awards in the spring and then the Anglia documentary was nominated for a BAFTA so I went down to London for that, which was an experience and a half!

“At the end of the year we went to the Santa Run in Wales, which was really good fun, but I think this year is not going to be quite as hectic. We haven't really got anything planned, apart from camp in the summer.”

It is this 'one step at a time' philosophy which is so important for Terri as she grows up.

Her family is determined she will do everything that any other eight-year-old child does and they try to keep her life as routine as possible.

Weekends are spent visiting both sets of grandparents and she is already looking forward to her summer holiday.

Paul said: “We are going to the adventure camp at Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire with the other members of the burns club. We go there every year but this time she is going for six days and will be going on her own for a while.

“It's good because it gives her some independence and gives me a bit of a chance to have a break for a while as well.”

Terri said: “Last year I got to do all sorts like climbing on the high ropes and sailing. We also went in an aeroplane and I got to steer it. I want to go back now!”