Terri Calvesbert was severely burnt as a baby and defied medics by surviving. Now it’s her sweet 16th
Laughing with friends in the back of a stretch limo and sipping sparkling “mocktails” to celebrate her sweet 16th, Terri Calvesbert says she’s having a ball.
Terri was terribly burnt in a house fire when she was a baby, which was started accidentally by her mum, Julie Minter, 32.
Terri was given little chance of survival by doctors. She lost her hair, lips, nose, all her fingers and her left foot but, after six months in hospital having skin grafts, she defied the odds and pulled through. She still struggles to walk long distances and has problems with her hearing.
'My friends worry about their appearance and I feel like saying: There’s more to life!'
But despite her injuries, Terri has always astonished people with her positivity. She’s currently studying for eight GCSEs and hopes to work in childcare.
Closer treated Terri and three of her school friends – Chloe Bright, 13, Sarah Dowsing, 15, and Sam Kemp, 15 – to a luxury limo ride, mocktails and a feast at an Italian restaurant to celebrate.
Terri says: “I feel so grown-up in the limo and sipping sophisticated drinks! I can’t believe I’m going to be 16. I’ve been through a lot and sometimes I feel more grown-up than I am. My friends worry about their appearance and I feel like saying: ‘There’s more to life!’
“I’m excited to see what the future holds – I’m looking forward to being independent and getting to do what I want!”
Terri lives with her dad Paul, 38, a fire service volunteer, and stepmum Nicky, 44, an insurance advisor, in Ipswich.
She was 18 months old when a fire broke out at her home in November 1998, after her mum accidentally left a lit cigarette by her cot.
She suffered 90 per cent burns to her face and body. Only the wet area of skin under her nappy was spared. She was so badly burned, when fire-fighters found her, they thought she was a charred doll.
Since the accident, Terri – who now wears a blonde wig – has had over 50 operations to stretch her scarred skin.
She says: “I’ve spent a lot of my life in hospitals, but I don’t let it get me down. I had my hands reconstructed when I was 14, which helps me grip, and I’m having surgery to rebuild my nose at 18. People stare and I get upset, but it’s what’s inside that matters.”
Sadly, since the fire, Terri’s mum Julie has been wracked with guilt and left the family shortly afterwards. Terri hasn’t seen her for a year and only receives sporadic texts from her. She says: “She usually sends a birthday card but, as it’s my 16th, it would be nice to get a present or to be taken out. I’m close to my stepmum, Nicky, though.”
Terri – who has a large group of friends – is fiercely independent. She says: “I want to learn to drive next year with a specially adapted car and live in my own house when I’m in my early 20s. I want to show I can live a normal life.”
'I want to learn to drive next year with a specially adapted car and live in my own house when I’m in my early 20s. I want to show I can live a normal life.'
When it comes to boys, Terri isn’t lacking in confidence. She says: “I’ve been single for a year now and I’d like to meet a boy, but I’m busy with my studies! I have no problem approaching boys. I’m just myself and if they don’t like me, I don’t worry.”
As the girls tuck into Terri’s birthday cake, she says: “My friends are brilliant and take me for who I am. We watch DVDs and go for milkshakes. We’re going bowling on the big day. I’m like any other teenager. I’ve had a brilliant girlie day. Now, let’s see what the future holds.”