Author tells her inspirational story about 'Unseen Arms'



In the opening of her memoir, Amy Brooks engages the reader immediately.

“STOP!” she begins in “Unseen Arms.” She urges the reader to take the book to the nearest checkout counter to purchase it before reading any further.

“To me — to actually write an introduction — it feels like that awkward ‘About Me’ field of a social media site or other necessary mediums,” she wrote.

She explained Monday, “I was just adding humor to the book.

There’s quite a lot of humor in this inspirational memoir to offset what started as a very sad story about a baby girl who was born without limbs in 1981. Her birth parents abandoned her at Magee-Womens Hospital, where the staff was asked if it could “put her in a room and not feed her.”

When she was 8 days old, she was taken in by foster parents Janet and Rich Brooks of Avalon, who adopted her two years later. Her family also includes two brothers and two sisters.

She was born with tetraphocomelia, an extremely rare condition, but throughout the years she has found happiness and support through her adoptive family and God.

“They never treated me as I was handicapped,” said Ms. Brooks, who is now 32. “I was part of the family, did everything my brothers and sisters got to do, and because of that I learned how to be independent.”

The Northgate High School graduate (she was an honors student) was in the news years ago when her family tried to raise money for service dogs to help her with everyday tasks. She now has a service dog, a black Labrador named Logic, who takes her bed covers on and off, picks things up off the floor and brings them to her, opens doors, and turns lights on and off. She often wears prosthetic arms and uses an electric wheelchair to get around.

“I’m pretty independent but she’s there for certain things I can’t do,” she said about Logic.

Ms. Brooks’‍ memoir, authored with Christian writer Jeff Ferris of Toledo, Ohio, includes several chapters written by her adoptive mother, father and siblings about her experiences growing up.

“Amy had a sweet, pleasant disposition and such warmth about her,” Mrs. Brooks wrote in a chapter titled “Early Tears” about when she first saw her at Magee. “At only 8 days old, she was squeaky clean and wrapped in innocence. Rich and I took her home, bright-eyed, content and oblivious to her abandonment.”

She learned to feed herself with a spoon attachment and was fitted with her first workable prosthetic arm — dubbed the “banana arm” by her parents because of its shape — when she was 14 or 15 months old. Among highlights of her childhood, she and her family received a trip to Walt Disney World from the Make-A-Wish Foundation when she was 15.

Since the book was released on Christmas Day by Joshua Tree Publishing, she has filled much of her time with artwork, especially with a technique called paper tole. She draws first with a pencil positioned between her chin and shoulder. She then uses an X-Acto knife to arrange photographs.

“It’s where you take multiple copies of the same photo. Then you layer those pieces on top of a base photo with silicone and it creates a 3-D effect, and I do that by holding an X-Acto knife in my mouth,” she said.

She also makes appearances as a motivational speaker, talking at churches and schools.“I like to show people that with God anything is possible,” she said. “He doesn’t make mistakes. He knows who we are and he can use all of us.

“I gave my life to Christ at age 7. My parents have a strong Christian faith, and they passed that on to me. I’ve always known that I was here for a reason. That’s to show God’s love for people.”

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Ms. Brooks will talk about her memoir and hold a book signing in the conference room of the Avalon Public Library, 317 S. Home Ave. Some of her artwork also will be on display. The session is free and open to the public.

Ms. Brooks believes her abandonment is one event that God turned into good.

“The first sad story is the abandonment,” she said, “but God even uses that for good. I ended up in the family I was supposed to.”


Pohla Smith: psmith@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1228.

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