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When they say you can’t keep a good woman down I’m sure they’re talking about my friend Trish Jackson. This remarkable woman is a mother, wife, motivational speaker, photographer and artist…and she’s also a thalidomide survivor.

Trish was born during a time when thalidomide was a drug prescribed for nausea during pregnancy. As a result Trish has short arms with a few fingers on each. The effects that this awful drug has taken on her body has been immeasurable including major heart problems with her having many heart operations. She lives with constant pain because “feet weren’t meant to be hands”. Imagine getting your foot up to your head many times a day to brush your hair or clean your teeth, turn taps on, drink coffee, eat, open doors etc and the ongoing pain that this would cause.

Originally born in Townsville Trish has lived on the Northside of Brisbane since she was eight years old and she considers the Prince Charles Hospital as her second home.

Trish has never considered herself as a victim but a survivor with her role models being her parents who she believes are the victims. Trish says “what my parents were put through after I was born and how they were treated just breaks my heart. There was no support back then and they didn’t get government funding to help for my health costs. The way my Dad fought for me to get into mainstream school was amazing as disabled kids did not go to mainstream schools in those days”. In Townsville Trish attended Cootharinga Crippled Children’s Home in Grades 1-3 and after moving to Brisbane this remarkable woman did go to mainstream school attending St Margaret’s in Brisbane from Grades 3-12.

About four years ago a childhood friend of Trish, who is now a school teacher, asked her to come and speak to her students. Her childhood friend told her that whilst watching Trish grow up, achieving lots of things in her life that she noticed she had always managed everything with a smile on her face. After speaking to the class and having 75 children all trying to write with their feet Trish decided she absolutely loved it and this is what she wanted to do.

A Resilient and Remarkable Woman

Trish has travelled to many schools and places she has spoken include Winton, Longreach, Cairns, Townsville, Toowoomba and local Brisbane areas. She has also spoken at a school in Adelaide which coincided with a medical conference that she was attending, as well as a couple of schools in western New South Wales. She has also mentored a young lad on photography. Trish does all this on a voluntary basis.

What Trish loves about public speaking is that she can do this because as a child she was extremely shy and would only ever speak to somebody if they spoke to her first. So for her to get up and speak to hundreds of kids just shows that you can achieve anything when you have a passion.

Being told that you were worthless or you don’t fit into the perfect body image, doesn’t mean that you are a nobody, with the right attitude you can achieve whatever you want. Trish does just this and there is nothing that this lady can’t do or at least she gives it a go.

Her motivational talks have grown from word of mouth and her presentations have evolved with each talk and every new question.

Trish’s motivation through all of this is that she wants everyone to appreciate what they have in life and not focus on what they haven’t got. For Trish that means not focusing on that she was born without any arms, also not focusing on all the negativity that she has endured throughout her entire life. It’s too easy to give up and many do. Trish could have been a very negative and angry person for being born in a very confronting body because of thalidomide. Trish says that she learnt acceptance at a very early age because she realised that no matter how many times she wished had arms they were never going to grow. It never bothered her that she had no arms but it certainly bothers everybody else. Life has been tough for Trish but she views life as a rollercoaster, that she doesn’t want to get off just yet.

Trish has many passions in life that she loves including fishing, gardening, photography, drawing and public speaking. She loves living on Brisbane’s Northside and being close to shopping centres, parks, beaches and bushland, so there are always endless photo opportunities and that’s important to her.

Trish doesn’t have much planned for the rest of the year as the beginning of this year was so busy and her body is telling her that its time to rest and recuperate. She has a few very local community groups to talk to and that will take her into the end of the year. Trish would love to do more adult talks as well as keeping up with the school talks, but it depends on how her body is feeling.

Trish’s motivation is strong though and her aim is to keep talking and hopefully change people’s lives who listen to her. She also is writing a book about her life and is looking forward to having that published.
if you want to read more about her public speaking, there is feedback on there as well as photographs and a little bit more about her life.

She also have a Facebook page: Footsie Photos

and an Instagram account: footsiephoto

Another great story by Robyn Baker

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