Terri’s ABS Story

Well my story begins November 19, 1958; I was born to two very young people who would turn out to be the best parents’ a child could have. I am very lucky. They endured all the surgeries, the stares, even people accusing my mom of putting rubber bands around my leg. Mom even had to live in San Raphael, California (90 miles from home)to be by my side, starting at the age of 6 months old. Dad stayed in Sacramento and worked very hard to keep their heads above water. They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Starting from the bottom up, I was born with all my toes webbed, and one large toe amputated. My right leg has two very deep indentations (one so severe, I had to have surgery to relieve the pressure). My fingers on both hands were severely amputated and the remaining digits were webbed. My head has 2 large bald spots where the bands just seemed to not quite catch on… or I was fighting for my life…I tend to think more of the latter considering my personality, today.

I had many, many surgeries including lots of skin graphs to un-web my fingers and also to repair my leg as I said earlier. I had the most wonderful Doctor in the world, his name was Dr Robert Mills. When I started school, it was very difficult to walk into those doors each and everyday, because there was not a day that went passed that I did not get teased. One event that happened was so horrible I thought I would not survive. The teasing was so bad that the principle called an assembly of the entire school… The Subject…. ME…. I thought it would make everyone in the school take notice of me even more, and I certainly did not want any part of that. When it was all done, I found that the kids did not make fun of me as much, but of course you’re not going to be able to change everyone overnight.

Being a teenager was much harder. It’s hard enough going through that stage of life anyway, but when you are a bit different then everyone else, it’s really difficult. I remembering hiding my hands all the time or sitting in the class room next to the wall, so I could turn toward the wall and no one would see my hands. Thinking of ways to hide my hands, consumed my every thought.

The thinking of educators in those days was terrible. I loved music and always wanted to play an instrument. So when choosing my classes, I choose to be in band class…The teachers would see me and I would be transferred into another class, immediately. I tried this every year from junior high all the way to high school. I never succeeded, but I had a bit of spark and continued to try every year…I never gave up…. When I graduated from High school I tried to join the military…guess what…..they would not accept me either. I tried all the services. I even tried to get a waiver… no luck . So I decided to use this to my advantage… I am considered handicap (I have never felt handicap, it’s a term everyone else uses for me) sooooo… I started to apply for Federal job as handicap. I was hired immediately.

At the age of 22, I was married and thinking of having children. I met with a genetic specialist, who then put a name to what happened to me. I was so happy to hear this, because I think my Mom always blamed herself. Now I could run home and actually tell her what is was and that it was not her fault. I hope it lifted that huge burden of her shoulders, but of course I never ever blamed my Mom.

There are many lessons I have learned over the years, the most important one is never give up, there is always a way. The other lesson I learned is that ignorance breeds prejudice. So as long as we inform, there will be less prejudice in the world.

Oh and by the way I still work for the Federal Government (30 years), have traveled all over the world and also have been in a band as a singer in the UK. I have recently returned to the US and have stated to sing in a new band. NEVER EVER GIVE UP!!!!!