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I'd love to have children with Robyn .. but I'm terrified they'd be born like me; THALIDOMIDE HUSBAND'S GREATEST HEARTACHE.

Terry Wiles is one of the most tragically-damaged thalidomide victims in Britain - but also one of the funniest and bravest.

His humour on the trials and tribulations of growing up without arms or legs and only one eye led to meetings with Prince Charles, appearances on chat shows and a private visit to the White House.

But all his courage can't mask a secret sorrow. Terry, who against the odds found a pretty, able-bodied bride, would love to have children. But he is terrified they would be born with the same deformities that have made his life so difficult.

This week, The Mirror revealed the scandal of second generation thalidomide children.

Ten offspring of original victims have been born with abnormalities and Terry, 35, is well aware of the risk he and wife Robyn face.

"I love Robyn and I would dearly love to have children with her," he says. "It would complete our happiness - but it would break my heart to watch my child go through what I have.

"I know second generation children have been born with the same deformities as their parents and I'm delighted The Mirror has highlighted this."

ONE of the first thalidomide babies to get six-figure compensation from the British Government, materially Terry had everything he needed.

A play was written about his life and in an acclaimed performance extrovert Terry, of Huntingdon, Cambs, even appeared as himself in the BBC's On Giants' Shoulders with Judi Dench. It brought him nationwide fame in the late Seventies.

When Terry set eyes on mental health carer Robyn ten years ago in New Zealand, he never believed she would want to marry him. But she did and left her first husband to be with him.

Their marriage has since been a long battle to overcome objections and prejudice from family, friends and neighbours.

Terry says: "It has been so difficult. For the first 18 months of our marriage, Robyn cried every day because everyone disowned us. We met at a conference for handicapped children in 1986.

"I was giving a talk and she was a voluntary worker. I liked her straight away but I thought I would be cool.

"She asked me if I would like to have a coffee with her and I thought `great' - but then she mentioned her husband."

Terry said the couple became friends and finally he plucked up courage to tell her how he felt.

"She was married and I didn't want to be the one to break that up, but I couldn't help myself.

"Even before we got together, I was having an unexpected reaction from some friends.

"I told one of them I wanted to marry Robyn and he just laughed as though it was impossible."

Robyn, 37, was experiencing her own difficulties. She didn't know how to tell her family she wanted to end her marriage of six years and live with a man so severely disabled.She had been shocked when she first saw Terry and didn't then know anything about the drug thalidomide.

But Robyn says: "I felt as though I was physically drawn to him. I've never felt like that. I realised he was kind, intelligent and witty with an outrageous sense of humour.

I KNEW after a year of being friends that I wanted to be with him. I had married young and I had grown apart from my first husband

"When Terry blurted out how he felt, I told him I felt the same way. But it was a couple of months before I plucked up courage to leave my husband.

"We had a row one rainy night and that just triggered it. I told him I wanted to live with Terry and I walked out the house with a coat over my nightdress.

"I drove to Terry's and asked him if he would have me and I stayed ever since." Their parents were unable to accept their love. Robyn's father refused to talk to her and Terry's mother Hazel, who had adopted him when he was an abandoned baby, said he had to choose between Robyn or her.

Terry says: "I can't understand why it was an issue of choosing between the two. I loved my mum and I loved Robyn.

"I rang them to tell them I had met this woman I had fallen in love with and they told me she was a golddigger and just after my compensation.

"When they realised she wasn't going to go away, my mum refused to speak to me - they couldn't accept I was grown up and having a relationship."

SURPRISINGLY, Robyn's first husband, who had met Terry, took it well and even gave Robyn his car while he cycled to work.

Terry, meanwhile, was also struggling to come to terms with the reaction of people he thought were his friends.

"When Robyn moved in with me in June 1988, it was World War Three and Four," he says.

"My friends had told me I should find someone to love - but they obviously didn't mean it because most of them dropped me."

"Robyn's family had disowned her, mine weren't much better. Our friends couldn't cope and we had to rely on each other.

"I proposed but I couldn't go down on one knee - I had to ask her to sit down. She couldn't say yes fast enough!"

The couple married on October 13, 1990 at their two-bedroom villa-style home in New Zealand where they still live.

There were 25 guests - Terry's mother didn't go but his father Len did.

"We had no worries about us even if other people did," says Terry. "We are like any normal couple - we like touching, hugging and having sex.

"I think people naturally assume I can't do it. I was in a pub one time and this guy comes up and says `how do you do it?'

"I said: `The same way you do it, mate!'

"People are very curious about that side of things. I suppose that I can't blame then really - it just makes me laugh."

Terry's low point came when his father died two years ago aged 83. His parents had moved back to England in 1993 and he had not spoken to them since. "I don't think I'll ever come to terms with what happened," he says. "I was so grateful my dad came to my wedding.

"I still love my mum very much. My parents saved my life - I would have died in a home if they had not adopted me and gave me a normal life. I wish I could make everything all right."

Terry's emotional pain was so intense at one stage he threw himself into a river.

"I had been told my father had died and I was so unsure about everything and we were so isolated from everybody.

"I was overwhelmed and I jumped into the river near our house. A jogger dragged me out."

Robyn was also having her own problems.

"My friends were disgusted because they only saw Terry's disabilities and I lost them all - but I never had any doubts about Terry. "I have changed since we moved in together. I used to be a compulsive cleaner but I've learned to calm down.

"One day Terry was reading and I picked up his book and cleaned under it. He just looked at me and said: `I think we need to have a talk'. We laughed so much." Even now people find it hard to accept them.

Robyn says: "Sometimes, if a workman who doesn't know us comes to do something on the house, he won't come back the next day.

"Some people also seem to think we must be of low intelligence and they try to rip us off. I didn't realise how hard this would be - but I have no regrets.

"We have a great life, we have new friends, we go to the movies, the theatre, have holidays and, of course, our ups and downs just like any couple.

"The only difference is we won't have children.

"I have accepted that and I work with a lot of youngsters so I have plenty of contact with them.

"But knowing how hard it is for us, I wouldn't want to have a child face the same kind of prejudice."
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Author:Grant, Clare
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 14, 1997
Words:1383
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