When she was only 18 months old, Terri Calvesbert was the victim of a fire at her home in Ipswich, England. She suffered 90% burns but made it out alive.
Calvesbert and her parents’ lives would never be the same from there on out, though the little girl never thought of herself as all that different from anyone else. In fact, she wasn’t; by all accounts, she was a playful girl who always had a smile on her face.
Today, Terri is all grown up and lives in Essex, England. Last year, she had the great pleasure of getting married and starting a family of her own. Here’s what she looks like today!
When Terri Calvesbert was only 18 months old, she was the victim of a terrible accident. Her mother, Julie, left a cigarette by the girl’s cot, which quickly caught fire.
Terri Calvesbert – fire left her with 90 percent burns
Terri was engulfed in a sea of flames, but firefighters were able to save her life. When firefighter Simon Bevan initially found her, he thought she was a charred plastic doll.
“I have never seen anybody with extreme burns to that degree,” he said in the Channel 5 documentary, The Girl With 90% Burns.
“She was so badly burnt I could not extend her neck to resuscitate her, and her body was totally rock hard. No one was expecting Terri to survive.”
Terri was rushed to the hospital, where she was given a small chance of survival. The blaze left the young girl battling 90 percent burns to her body.
“She was normally such a brilliant sleeper, so I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t settle,” Terri’s mother Julie recalled in an interview with The Sun.
“I never smoked in the flat, but this one night I did. I don’t know why to this day, I did such a stupid thing.”
Julie left her cigarette in Terri’s room, and walked out, talking all the while to her baby. She recalled thinking that she had decided to let Terri tire herself out, in the hopes that she would fall asleep.
But Terri’s screams only grew worse, and Julie realized there was something wrong. She went back into her little girl’s room, only to find it was on fire, and now filled with black smoke.
“I just panicked, I couldn’t see anything but smoke and flames,” Julie said, stating that she instantly dialed 911.
Required more than 40 skin grafts
“I remember running into the kitchen and getting a bowl and filling it with water and throwing it into the bedroom, but it made no difference. So many people have said to me since that I should have gone in there and got her. But I panicked.”
“When it comes to that night in November, I kind of get a horrible feeling inside. But that’s the only time it really affects me,” Terri told the Daily Mail.
“What happened does stay with me, but I’m really proud of myself for what I have achieved.”
Calvesbert had to spend six months at the St. Andrews hospital in Chelmsford, England. The extensive burns left her with only a minimal chance of survival, and she required more than 40 skin grafts.
What happened two weeks after the fire sent the family spiraling down to even deeper agony.
Terri’s mother was wracked with guilt over the tragic incident, and decided to leave. She and Terri’s father, Paul, had separated some months earlier, but Julie decided to move back in since she missed Terri so much. However, after the incident, she couldn’t bear seeing what her actions had done to her beloved daughter, and so Paul was left alone with Terri.
Though it was very tough, her father was entirely devoted to helping Terri survive, and trying to give her as close to a normal life as possible.
Terry Calvesbert – growing up
Her father’s love and support was crucial as she was growing up.
“Me and my dad are really close and he’s the one who comes when I go to hospital,” the then 12-year-old Terri said.
“He sleeps on a bed next to mine and looks after me. He talks to me when I get in a state and helps to calm me down.”
“Dad used to wash and dress me too, but I don’t need as much help with that anymore,” she added. “I’m more grown-up so I can look after myself.”
Terri Calvesbert became one of only a handful of people worldwide to survive this kind of extensive burns to her body.
At the age of 12, the girl had gone through more than 60 operations and spent 12 months in the hospital. She didn’t recall anything of the terrible day – her earliest memories include only the agony she went through as surgeons tried to restore her angelic features, one at a time.
Sadly, the fire left her with no hair, no nose, no fingers, and only one foot. Terri has had her lips rebuilt since then, and will require surgeries for the rest of her life.
In an interview back in 2008 – when she was 12 years old – Terri had started wearing a wig. Despite all she went through, she always stayed brave and hopeful with the future in mind.
Survived against all odds
“The surgeons had to put on new skin and do lots of operations on my nose and lips,” Terri explained.
“My dad stays with me and takes me down to the operating theatre, but all the operations scare me and they hurt a lot.”
“The last operation I had was on my left hand, to open out my fingers, but that was horrible because it got infected and I was really sick. I need eye drops too and because I didn’t have them put in that time, my eyes were sore too,” she added.
Against all odds, though, Terri Calvesbert has survived. Though she was left with severe burns, and will most likely be disfigured for the rest of her life, she captured the hearts of the people of England with her positive attitude. In recognition of this, Terri was awarded a Pride of Britain child of courage award by the Duchess of York in 2004.
Speaking to the Mirror, Terri explained that she “doesn’t know any different” about her physical appearance. At the time, she explained that she was very nervous before starting secondary school, though friends and classmates helped her get over the fears of meeting new people in public.
“I was really scared on my induction day for school because everything was so big and I was worried about what people would think of me when they saw me,” Terri said.
“But then I sat on a table with some other children, and we started talking, so everything was fine, and we started being friends.”
Reunited with mother ten years later
Terri’s mother, Julie, left the family when the little girl was still in the hospital after the terrible accident. They didn’t speak for more than ten years after the fire, and it would be easy to understand if the little girl had felt disappointed in her mom.
However, years later, Terri once again showed that her heart was bigger than anyone could have expected. In an interview with The People, Terri revealed that she had forgiven her mother, and that they had reunited.
“My mum phoned Dad after she heard he was getting married to his girlfriend Nicky and said she wanted to see me,” Terri Calvesbert recalled.
“Now I see her every few weeks at my grandma’s house. It’s not weird at all, it’s just normal. We talk about things like what I’m doing at school. I’m not angry with her about the fire.
“I just think I’m lucky because I see my mum and then there’s Nicky too. It’s like I have two mums instead of one.”
Terri’s father, Paul, tied the knot with his girlfriend Nicky when the girl was 12 years of age. He explained that it was difficult to accept Julie coming back into their lives. But he also realized that it was for the best.
“We have all moved on now and I wasn’t going to stop Terri seeing her mum if she wanted to. We go round to meet her at Julie’s mum’s house so the two of them can sit down and talk for a bit. It works well because they can see each other without Terri’s life with us being too interrupted,” Paul told The People.
Trust Fund and fundraising
“Terri is doing brilliantly at the moment, enjoying school and coping very well with everything,” he added.
“It’s nice to see her happy and settling in, especially after the latest operation, on her hand, was such a difficult one. Terri is a real inspiration and I am very, very proud.”
In 1999, the Terri Calvesbert Trust Fund was established to meet expenses for Terri’s care and provide financial security for her in the years ahead. An appeal for her organized by the Ipswich Star newspaper has raised more than £500,000 pounds as of 2012.
Terri has been overwhelmed by the support she has received over the years from friends, family, and people worldwide.
“The trust fund has been amazing, I have lost count of how much money people have raised for me,” Terri said. “I even get messages now on Facebook still, with people from Canada or America, which is crazy. It means so much to me.”
Naturally, Terri’s life changed forever with the tragic fire, but she’s never let that affect her. So what has happened to Terri since?
Well, one can definitely say that she has done well for herself.
Years ago, Terri met her now-husband, Richard Holmes, over Facebook. The two hit it off instantly, quickly falling in love.
Terri Calvesbert – family, husband, daughter
While Terri studied animal care at the Otley College in Ipswich, she fell pregnant. Her daughter, Poppy-Mae, is now five years of age.
“It’s scary to be a mum and I never thought I would be able to be one. But it is great and I love it. She’s a good girl,” Terri told the Ipswich Star.
Not only that, but on Terri’s 21st birthday, Richard got down on one knee and proposed. On July 18, 2020, the couple tied the knot in front of friends and family. Terri still gets wrong messages from trolls on social media because of her appearance, but nothing can stop her from being the inspirational woman she’s always been.
As for Richard, he is truly a special person.
“In previous relationships, my partners have never really understood me or what happened to me,” Terri explained. “Obviously, I’ve only got the one leg now, but Richard took it really well, and he understands me. But no one thought we would get this far as a couple.”
“I wouldn’t take my leg off at first in front of Richard,” she added. “But he made me feel really comfortable very quickly and now I take my wig and my leg off at night. He really does love me.”
Richard himself described his beloved wife as a “fighter.”
This is Terri Calvesbert today
“I could never meet a nicer woman than Terri,” he said prior to their wedding.
“I can’t wait to marry her and I’m really excited about the big day. It has taken a lot of planning.”
Terri volunteers several days a week at the RSPCA charity shop in Sudbury, England. She also owns two beloved dogs and revealed that she hopes to drive a specially designed vehicle someday.
“There have been difficult times over the years going through so many painful operations, but I’m so proud I’ve got to this point,” Terri Calvesbert said.
There are few people more inspiring than Terri Calvesbert. Her bravery and positive outlook on life is something we all can benefit from, and we wish her and her family all the best in the future.
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