Trish Jackson is a survivor of the drug Thalidomide, she was born in Townsville North Queensland in 1962, with 3 tiny fingers on each underdeveloped hand and her tiny hands are attached to her shoulders as she was born without arms. She also had six holes in her heart and under developed lungs. All birth defects were due to Thalidomide marketed as a wonder drug for morning sickness it was claimed to be safe for women and child. Despite the best medical opinions that she would not survive, she survived.
Trish attended Cootharinga Crippled Children’s Home for the first 3 years of her schooling. Her Family relocated to Brisbane so she could be closer to the Chermside Heart Hospital (Prince Charles). She begged her Dad to let her go to a ‘normal school’ like her siblings, eventually her Dad found a school prepared to allow her to attend, disabled children did not attend mainstream school. There was no such thing as teacher aids back then, her Mother would come up to the school every lunch hour to take her to the toilet, till she graduated in grade 12.
Trish was in and out of hospital all through her childhood, having numerous heart repair procedures which continue to this day. She did not learn to walk till she was around 7 years old, due to her heart condition so she was carried everywhere until her major heart operation at the age of 12, she then had the energy to walk by herself and no longer required friends to carry her from class to class at school. She was given no special treatment at school and had to participate in all events, for example if she could not physically do the sport, she umpired or was in charge of the cheer squad.
After graduating grade 12 Trish headed to Centrelink to claim the dole (unemployment benefit) and register for work like all her friends that did not go on to University had done. Only to be told “No you can’t register because someone like you can’t work”. After much arguing with Centrelink, they said, She had to prove she could work first and told her that she had to prove that she was capable of working before they would give her the dole.
In Trish’s words, “They did not send me to an office to prove my capabilities instead they sent me to a workshop for the mentally challenged, (I am physically disabled not mentally) for 12 weeks with no pay, stuffing plastic cutlery into paper bags. Exactly 12 weeks later I walked back into Centrelink to claim the dole and register for work. I was not greeted with open arms instead I was asked ‘what was I doing back there?’. When I said I want to register for work as I had done my 12-week stint as they demanded of me. They said “No your place in society is at the sheltered workshop”. Much arguing continued – eventually Centrelink let me register for work and within 2 weeks I had found full time employment.
This was the darkest time in my life as I had started to believe all the negativity from the so called experts and family and now the government.
After my time at the sheltered workshop even though the government and society believed I was worthless and would never amount to anything, deep down I knew I would prove them all wrong.
So hence began my journey to be sufficient and independent in every aspect of my life, I knew Mum could not follow me to work and be my carer for the rest of my life. My first job was a receptionist, I then very ironically landed a job in the health department in the pharmaceutical section. This is ironic for two reasons – as I am the result of the greatest pharmaceutical disaster in the world and secondly – the government said ‘I could not work’ they ended up being my boss for over 10 years.
As for my personal life again I proved everyone wrong! I married and we had a child, who is now a healthy young lady. Unfortunately, when she was 9 her dad passed away and I was left to raise her on my own. I asked Disability services for help with raising her but they could not help me as she was not disabled.
As time moved on I met Trevor and we married, later on Trevor gave up his full time job to be my carer. Getting the disability pension was my next battle with the government, they now decided I was not disabled enough to get the disability pension.
I love life even though I live in constant pain because feet are not meant to be hands, all my life my feet have been my hands. Yes, that’s right, I hold my tooth brush with my foot to brush my teeth twice a day every day. Everything you do with your hands, I do with my feet.
I have hobbies just like everyone else fishing, swimming, sailing, I have even tried my foot at glass blowing. I have been up in a glider and helicopter. My true passion is photography and I have won many awards, just how do you hold a camera with no arms?
Recently I have taken up drawing of course I do this with my feet.
I can’t forget my public speaking and Toastmasters where in my first interclub competition I won first place.
My love of public speaking
I have spoken to groups from kindy to people in their 80’s and from all walks of life Doctors, professors, and medical staff, Politian’s, School teachers and students. From Far North Queensland to Adelaide.
They say I’m inspirational, but I’m not I am just a girl who lives in a very confronting body and have always done it with a smile on my face.