Photographs by Alex Jones
Brooks: I was born without arms and legs. It’s called Tetraphocomelia. I was abandoned by my birth family right after I was born in the hospital. I was placed in a foster home with Richard and Janet Brooks, who would end up becoming my real family. They started the adoption process right away, but it took them about two years until that was complete. I grew up with two brothers and two sisters, all older than me. I was the baby.
My family never really treated me as though I was disabled growing up. My parents would show me how things were done, but then let me try to figure out how to do them on my own, because, obviously, I would do them much differently. My parents were wonderful to me. They have strong faith, and they have instilled that in me as well. I believe that’s why I’m able to be so independent today.
Dr. Shellie: Amazing. Please tell us about your inspiring YouTube channel.
Brooks: Yes. My YouTube channel has a series called, “How DOES She Do It?” Basically, I share small video clips about how I do everyday tasks or other things I’m doing so people can see how I’m able to do them. I do most of the camera work and all of the video editing on my own.
Dr. Shellie: Tell us one thing that you do without arms and legs that would surprise us.
Brooks: Well, a few years ago, I started sewing. I’ve been sewing bags and wallets for the last year and a half or so, and that’s something I never expected to be able to do on my own. I did it a little bit in high school, but I needed help. Since then, technology has come a long way with sewing machines. I love doing it. And it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
And cooking! I just started learning how to do that. So really, I can do almost anything that anybody else can do. I just do it a little bit differently.
Dr. Shellie: Absolutely. And I’ve seen you on your YouTube videos, even just brushing out your hair and putting on makeup and doing other things like that are impressive when done without arms. When you talk to people who are feeling down about obstacles in their lives, what type of encouragement do you give them?
Brooks: I think our attitude is really important. My mom taught me that no matter what we’re going through, there’s always somebody out there who is going through something worse. It’s good to keep our circumstances in perspective and be thankful for what we have. When we have that perspective, there’s no room for negativity. That helps us thrive.
Dr. Shellie: Absolutely. I’m inspired already by you, Amy. You have such a good soul, and you’re just an amazing person and a hard worker.
I was in awe when we did a photo shoot together, and you did some of the editing on the computer as we were going along. Explain to our readers what you do in the photography realm, because you’re such an artist and so creative.
Brooks: I do some of the editing, like you were saying. I help out commercial photographer Alex Jones who shot the images for this article. I enjoy helping out as digital tech at times. I love to be creative in different ways, and photography is one of those. I do a little bit of art, too.
Dr. Shellie: Can you explain how you do photography work when you don’t have arms, when you don’t have fingers?
Brooks: I use the computer by using mostly my little left arm. I do have a little bit of extension of arms. “Tetraphocomelia” actually means four seal limbs, so if you want a visual, that’s kind of what I have, although my arms are a little bit smaller than the seal’s flipper.
I use my little arm, or if I’m on my laptop and I can’t reach the keys in the back, I’ll hold a pen in my mouth to reach the back keys. I just make it work. As long as something is within my reach, I’m able to do it. But if it’s out of my reach, I just have to figure out a way to bring it closer.
Dr. Shellie: Incredible. Tell us about your Go Fund Me campaign, Arms Around Amy.
Brooks: The nonprofit Caring Hearts, which helps the poor and hurting people of San Luis, Mexico, heard about my story. They found out that we needed a new handicap-accessible vehicle and that we really weren’t able to provide ourselves with one. They started a Go Fund Me campaign for me, in my honor. Not only that, but I’m hoping to make enough to have the van modified so I would be able to drive it. That would be an amazing part of independence that I don’t currently have, so I’m really looking forward to that!
Dr. Shellie: Incredible. If you are comfortable with it, please tell our readers how old you are because you always look so young.
Brooks: I’m 37. I think it’s my height. I’m short for my age.
Dr. Shellie: Oh, stop. (Laughs) That’s the other thing. You have this incredible sense of humor. Is that alarming to people sometimes when they hear it the first time?
Brooks: I think so, because they’re not expecting me to make fun of myself. I can see it in their faces when it registers—“Maybe I don’t have to be so careful with my words around her.”
Dr. Shellie: Exactly. You don’t want to always be self‑depreciating, and you certainly are not. You make everybody feel so warm and comfortable around you. Tell us something that you like about yourself.
Brooks: I’m thoughtful toward others, and I love to encourage people, and that’s why I do motivational speaking, even though it’s daunting and frightening. But I love that I’m able to do that and encourage others, because it’s something that I love to do.
Through my autobiographies, Unseen Arms and Unseen Arms…Reaching Out, I have been able to tell about my story, including the challenges and how I’ve been able to overcome them. I love that I have the platform to be able to share this message.
I hope that my story will encourage others and help change their perspective on things they are able to achieve. I think everybody needs to know that they have a purpose in this life and that they’re not mistakes.