Schoolgirl Terri Calvesbert was badly burned in a house fire ten years ago. As a Christmas surprise, Closer treated the X Factor fan to a VIP trip to meet the stars.
Originally published 16 December 2008;
As she arrived at the X Factor studios in north London on a chilly Friday afternoon, Terri Calvesbert took a deep breath. Preparing to meet the stars from her favourite TV show, she admitted she felt nervous – but as usual the brave 12 year old didn’t show it.
Ten years ago, Terri was so badly burnt in a house fire that doctors didn’t expect her to live. The blaze burnt off her hair, nose, lips, ears, fingers and one of her feet.
She’s since endured more than 60 operations and faces many more years of reconstructive surgery. But courageous Terri was all smiles during her VIP visit behind the scenes at The X Factor studios, where Closer arranged for her to meet the stars of the show and even watch the live rehearsals.
“It’s really made my Christmas this year”
“It’s really made my Christmas this year,” grinned Terri. Accompanied by dad Paul, 34, and stepmum Nicky, 40, Terri’s special day began when she was led into a dressing room and told the stars were on their way.
“They’re coming in here?” she gasped. Minutes later, bare-footed Diana Vickers appeared dressed in denim dungarees and greeted Terri with a big kiss, shortly followed by boy band JLS.
After the boys performed their version of Stand By Me, singer Jonathan Gill told Terri: “You’re beautiful.” “No I’m not,” she replied shyly, before bursting into giggles.
The door opened again and contestants Eoghan Quigg, Alexandra Burke and Rachel Hylton popped in to pose for photos.
But the highlight for Terri, from Ipswich, Suffolk, was a cuddle from her favourite star, Ruth Lorenzo.
“I’m honoured to meet you,” the Spanish singer told her. “I want to hear all about you. What’s your favourite school subject? What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Terri told her she wants to be a zookeeper. “Meeting Ruth was like a dream come true,” she later confessed.
After meeting the contestants, Terri was led into the studio to watch rehearsals and even cheekily sat at the judges’ desk.
When Cheryl Cole arrived with her chihuahua dog, Buster, Terri ran over and told the smiling Girls Aloud star: “I’ve got a new puppy called Doddles,” before showing her a photo of him on her mobile. “Oh he’s gorgeous,” cooed Cheryl.
Terri looked worried when “Mr Nasty” Simon Cowell walked over, but he gave her a wink and happily signed an autograph that read: “You’re my new best friend!”
Next up was a one-to-one meeting with Closer columnist Dannii Minogue in her dressing room. After hugging and kissing Terri, Dannii quizzed her about her favourite music and whether she was enjoying her visit.
“I’m having the best day ever,” Terri confirmed with a big smile. “Dannii’s very pretty and she made
me feel really special,” whispered Terri as she left the room.
The day was a welcome escape from the endless hospital visits that have dominated Terri’s life since the house fire in November 1998, which started when her mum, Julie, accidentally dropped a lit cigarette into Terri’s cot.
Terri was left with 90 per cent burns and was kept in hospital for nine months before she could leave.
Tragically, Julie, 31, was so wracked with guilt she fled the family home, leaving Paul to care for their sick daughter alone. The couple divorced a year later and Julie only got back in contact this year when she learned Paul was remarrying.
“I’m not angry with Mum for starting the fire. People make mistakes”
“We see each other every couple of weeks now and it feels like I have two mums,” says Terri. “I’m not angry with Mum for starting the fire. People make mistakes.”
Terri has regular hospital appointments and every year has reconstructive surgery. “Her skin doesn’t grow by itself,” explains Paul. “So she has skin grafts added to various places every year to help her stretch out her limbs properly.”
Despite the pain, Terri stays positive and is excited that following operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital earlier this year she’s due to have artificial ears fitted in 2009.
“She doesn’t seem to be too affected by her appearance yet, but we know that’ll come,” says Paul. “She doesn’t get bullied at school, but often people stare in the street.
“For now though, her main worry is not being able to do things like play in the playground or do PE because she’s regularly in bandages.”
But inspirational Terri takes it in her stride. “Sometimes it’s been hard, but now I’m happy and I think I’m just like my friends.”
And she’s looking forward to telling pals about her amazing X Factor surprise. “No one at school will believe it,” Terri beams. “I’ve had the best Christmas present ever!”