BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: Tegan Swain, who suffered horrific burns when she was a toddler, has fought on bravely to overcome incredible obstacles.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: Tegan Swain, who suffered horrific burns when she was a toddler, has fought on bravely to overcome incredible obstacles. Mike Richards

Tegan beats bullies and has burning desire to inspire others

TEGAN Maree Swain could be one of two things.

A girl who is crippled and helpless, or a girl who is proud, beautiful, brave and an inspiration to all.

Tegan is the latter.

When Tegan was just eight months old, she was involved in a terrible accident in which she suffered shocking burns to most of her body.

The 23-year-old Rockhampton woman struggles to walk because she has stunted growth in her legs and no feet, is covered in horrific scars and is in pain every day, but that doesn't stop her from facing the world with a positive "I'll prove you wrong" attitude.

"I don't know much about what happened because I was so young. All I know is that I was burnt by hot water," Tegan said.

Since the accident, Tegan has been in and out of hospital countless times.

"I lost my feet and can't walk long distances or stand up for too long. I also can't sit down for too long," she said. "I have special shoes that attach to my legs and I can't walk without them; I also use a crutch to help me walk.

"Over the years I have had countless operations. I travel to Brisbane regularly for operations.

"I'm going in for my next operation soon to have a skin graft on my knee. I've had an ulcer on my knee for 13 years that won't heal. I'm in pain all the time but have medication to help."

Growing up, Tegan said she faced many challenges, and sadly, bullying was one of them.

"As I got older, I had to live with the realisation I was a bit different to everyone else," she said.

"But I went to primary school at Berserker State Primary School and then went to Glenmore State High School; I didn't go to any special schools.

"I finished school in grade 11. It was just too hard for me to finish because I had a high tibial osteotomy, which is when they re-align your knee.

"My knee was off to one side so they had to break my shin bone and set it straight. After that I had to learn to walk on that leg again.

"People have always picked on me for the way I am; they still do it to this day. They call me names like 'no legs'.

"It's hard but... I won't let it stop me."

And it certainly hasn't.

"I've come a long way," Tegan said.

"I have had one child and I also lost a child through miscarriage recently," Tegan said.

"I have my little girl Lilyann Rose who is four. Since she has been born life has been great as she brings a smile to my face every day.

"I have my little girl Lilyann Rose who is four. Since she has been born life has been great as she brings a smile to my face every day.

"Lilyann Rose was born premature at 32 weeks and five days but she is perfect."

Tegan suffered another blow recently when the government cut her disability pension, but once again she's rising to the challenge.

"I was on a disability pension but Centrelink cut it and put me on a Newstart payment because they think I am fit to work and want me to get a job," she said.

"Finding a job is hard because I can't stand up or sit down for too long but I'm trying really hard to find some work because I dream of having a house of my own one day.

"I also dream of seeing my favourite artist Kerser perform live."

For anyone else who has been bullied or is in the same situation as her, Tegan has a message.

"Believe in yourself and take it day by day. Each day it gets easier and there are people there to help and support you," she said.

"At the end of the day the judgmental people will only bring themselves down.

"I've put up with the bullying and hate all my life and sometimes you feel like you can't be happy. It took a long time but I found happiness."



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