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Born without arms, Veronica Brooks teaches patients to use their own

Veronica Brooks was born without arms. That didn't stop her from teaching her occupational therapy patients to use their own.
/ Source: TODAY

After a few rings of Veronica Brooks' cell phone, a chipper voicemail recording announces, "You've reached the totally talented toes lady." Her feet have made her famous in her small town of Princeton, West Virginia, because Brooks was born without arms.

"At the time it was 1969, the doctors weren't really sure, you know, what would that lead to," Brooks told TODAY.

"They told my parents not to expect much. So basically just to be prepared," Brooks continued laughing, "and I don't think the world was prepared for me! "

Today, Brooks is an occupational therapist.

"I've been very blessed because though I've never had two of my own arms, it's never stopped me from being able to teach someone else how to make better use of their own," she said.

Veronica Brooks guides a patient through mobility exercises. TODAY

She works with patients to help them relearn their physicality after an injury or similar change.

"When patients first come to me, they often see their current situation as 'this isn't going to get better, I'm not going to get better, I'm not going to be the same person that I was,'" Brooks said. " I try to encourage them by reminding them that though their health has changed, that they're the same person. They're still a sister, a mother, a grandmother ... Those aspects of who they are have not changed."

Brooks sees her adapted lifestyle as an asset in her career.

"I'll talk to them about body mechanics, or I'll talk to them about joint protection. But I don't always just explain it from a textbook format," she said. "A lot of times I will actually show them how I might turn a faucet on or turn it off. I will actually throw my leg up on the sink, or show them how I pick things up or put things away in the refrigerator."

"With at least one patient a day, I probably say, 'If I can do this, you can do this.'"

Not every patient trusts that she's up for the job at first, but Brooks is always determined to build a relationship with her patients.

"For some reason when I helped them tie their shoes, that was the clincher," she explained.

Brooks plays Boggle with a patient to practice fine motor skills.TODAY

She may be admired by her patients, but Brooks doesn't always consider herself an inspiration.

"In childhood as I continued to explore through play, coloring, writing," she told TODAY. "I didn't know that using my feet was different ... And even now I still have trouble understanding sometimes when people say, 'That's so amazing.'"

"I appreciate it, but I can't always say that I fully grasp it. But in terms of all the things that I've got to accomplish in my life, sometimes even I don't know how I did it."