Terri's challenging future

BURNS survivor Terri Calvesbert faces a challenging future. Health and Social Services Editor TRACEY SPARLING tells the story of a man who was burned as a baby and grew up facing hard experiences which could be mirrored in Terri's future.

BURNS survivor Terri Calvesbert faces a challenging future.

Health and Social Services Editor TRACEY SPARLING tells the story of a man who was burned as a baby and grew up facing hard experiences which could be mirrored in Terri's future.

Terry Everitt now wants to help others by setting up a new charity, in which Terri's dad Paul is also getting involved.

AT the moment Terri Calvesbert is doing wonderfully well at school.

Her teachers say she is a bright, lively girl, keen to do everything the other children do.

She is determined to overcome her disabilities, suffered as a result of the dreadful fire she survived three years ago.

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But her family know that life won't always be so sheltered, for the girl whose face and body is permanently scarred.

Her courage and cheeky character will stand her in good stead, but there is no doubt there will be challenging times and difficult experiences as she grows up, and strikes out to make her own way in the world.

The ignorance and cruelty of a minority will be a fact of her life, as it remains for Falklands War survivor Simon Weston OBE.

Upon meeting Terri in 1999, Simon was full of inspiring words but he admitted he still heard people commenting about his appearance at dinner parties.

So although Terri is now a local celebrity in Ipswich, when she ventures to pastures new the stares will start all over again.

Now her devoted dad Paul Calvesbert is planning to work with a new charity, to help others affected by burns - and the man running it has been through a wealth of experiences that Terri may face one day.

The Burn Survivors Association UK was launched in London this month and is also backed by Simon Weston.

It is the first registered charity to develop, co-ordinate and promote support for burn survivors, and Paul contacted the association after the Evening Star put them in touch.

He doesn't yet know what his input will involve, but he said he would be happy to help others by talking about his family's own experiences.

He already knew some of the people involved, from Terri's time at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.

One of the nurses at the hospital who looked after Terri, is the partner of Terry Everitt from nearby Billericay, the chairman of the association who was burned as a baby.

He was just six months old when he put a gas mask over a fireguard into the flames, and pulled it out alight.

He said: "It caught my woollen jumper alight, my mother came in and pulled it off which pulled the skin on my chest and lower face."

He has lived with facial disfigurement ever since, going through every emotion a burn survivor feels.

Now as an adult – 38 tomorrow Terry can look back on the challenges which his five-year-old namesake may still have lying ahead of her.

He said: "She will have to persevere and realise that a lot of the things she may blame on the scars are things other people have to put up with as well – but it is easier to blame the scars."

He said: "Despite the tremendous efforts by plastic surgeons, the scars remain as a constant reminder to myself and my mother, who will never forgive herself for leaving me on my own for one fateful second.

"Anyone who has suffered a serious burn, or is close to someone who has, will understand how lonely you can feel."

He recalled how he once waited hours in a hospital waiting room, and said: "All around me were some horribly deformed people and it took me a while to realise I was actually the same as them. "All I remember is a kind of hollow acceptance about it all. This was my fate and I should not create too much fuss and upset my parents.

"Like most other survivors I suffered years of name calling and feeling different. 'Kids are cruel' seemed to cover everything, as if this made it better. Perhaps it was even my fault? There were no other burns survivors to speak to, so how was I supposed to know how to feel?

"I am still reminded of my scars, even now. Receptionists and check-in staff tend to assume I'm a bit retarded. They try to deal with the person behind me first, as someone with my special needs will take extra time.

"The difference now is that I've lived through all of it and realised that there are more nice people than bad.

"Most people don't realise they are staring and, at some point, you have to get on with life and enjoy the good things.

Many burn survivors end up doing better in life than they would otherwise have done, mainly because of the drive required to face up to life keeps on going.

"We hope the association can, by acting as an umbrella organisation for all the other groups that already exist, stop other sufferers and their families going through the painful experiences I did.

"I had no formal qualifications for the position of chairman, other than being burnt myself and hoping and wishing that no-one would have to go through the same experiences I had.

"The real work starts now. We have a big long list of aims and objectives and to help them become reality we need people's help."

The association will help some of the 175,000 people who get burn injuries each year, of which 13,000 are admitted to hospital.

It will also:

Provide support for new and long term burn survivors and their families

Provide information on professional contact points

Promote exchange of information, and best practice

Link existing local support groups

Promote the formation of local support groups

Promote the use of new improved treatments.


To find out more, call Mr Everitt on 01277 631086, or e-mail burnsurvivorsassociation@hotmail.com

Weblink: www.burnsurvivorsassociation.com


To make a donation to the Terri Calvesbert Appeal which has now hit £100,000, send a cheque to Geraldine Thompson, Editor's Secretary, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.