THE world can often be a cruel place for people like Deborah Dahl.
Born with a rare condition and abandoned by her birth mother, the disability activist had a tragic early life but refuses to let that hold her back.
In fact, the mum is eager to share her story with the world and raise aware about phocomelia – a condition she’s had since infancy.
The illness causes arms and legs to not grow properly, often resulting in the limbs being under developed – just like Deborah’s.
Rather than help her daughter life with no arms, Deborah’s mum would refuse to take her home from the hospital and ultimately, abandoned her.
For the next four and half years, the young girl would remain in an orphanage until a family from the US decided to adopt her and bring her to the States.
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It’s then that Deborah’s life truly began, with her getting her first taste of independence – with the gentle encouragement of her new family.
Starting with simple tasks, her adoptive mum encouraged her to use a hairbrush – a first for the then six year.
Speaking with Truly decades later, Deborah recalled: “When I was around five or six, my mum told me to hold a brush – probably with my hands.
As a young girl though, she quickly realised that she could use her feet as hands, explaining: "I use my feet to open doors, reach a mug out of the cupboard, straighten my hair".
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Her new family also helped her as she underwent multiple surgeries to shave down the bones, which grew out of her skin.
Though she found ways to navigate her disability, it’s was harder to avoid cruel comments or stares from other kids.
Leaving school didn’t help either, with the activist revealing that she still received rude remarks whilst going about her daily life.
"It's constant – sometimes a kid will be like, 'Ew, what's wrong with your arms?’” she confessed in the short documentary.
Despite this, Deborah would later make the brave decision to start a TikTok channel – cleverly titled Deborah Look No Hands.
With encouragement from her family, including husband Nathan and son Matthew, the disability influencer has amassed a huge 427,000 followers simply from documenting her life.
Proving that nothing can hold her back, the mum-of-one also regularly shares her favourite recipes on her channel.
Though trolls regularly target her page, Deborah has learnt to see the funny side.
After reading a particularly nasty comment, which compared her to a T-Rex, she decided to reply with a hilarious video.
Wearing T-Rex arms on the end of her fingers, the Tiktoker made light of the incident and the video rapidly went viral – a first for her.
Since then, Deborah has used her platform to raise awareness about her rare condition.
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"People say what they want to say and it's up to you how you want to respond… I try to have a positive, funny outlook,” she explained.
She also hopes to represent those like her with limb differences, saying: "Maybe one day a kid with a limb difference is going to be scrolling TikTok and be like, 'Oh, she looks like me!' Now we have a platform where we can be like, 'We're here, we're taking up space!'"
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