The Sound of Both Hands Clapping

The soldier, the redhead and the simple gesture that signaled a lifetime of meaning for both of them. 

The man at the bar, Frank Barroqueiro, had one of those Duck Dynasty beards. At age 38, he stood surrounded by family and friends to celebrate his retirement from the U.S. Army. Some had flown in from New Jersey while others drove in from all over Georgia. It was an important night for the combat veteran, a night to celebrate a man and his accomplishments.  

Across the room, red-haired Amy Todd furtively watched Barroqueiro, his wife and others as they shared light-hearted stories and laughter. Todd and Barroqueiro had a special bond, so when people toasted the man of the hour, she grabbed a beer and rushed over to be part of it. With a pint glass in hand, Frank lifted his right arm high to return the toast, and it was a moment no one would forget – especially Amy Todd.

The Warrior

New Jersey native Frank Barroqueiro worked with his hands.  As a park system instructor, whitewater rafting and kayaking were just a few of the things Frank did in his early 20s when he met his wife Bethany. Together they moved to north Georgia where Frank taught eighth-grade physical science at Chestatee Middle School and Bethany took an engineering position with Johnson & Johnson. He also served as Capt. Frank Barroqueiro with the Americus-based Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Brigade of the Army National Guard. In June 2009, Frank and his unit were deployed to Afghanistan. They were assigned to help train local army and police in the northern part of the country, one of the most hostile areas of the region. Dangerous combat missions became a routine part of life.

During a mission on Aug. 27, 2009, Barroqueiro and his platoon took heavy enemy fire. He was hit in the right forearm, but stayed in action until team members could take a look. 

It never occurred to Barroqueiro that he might lose his arm. 

The first medical officer to see him very matter-of-factly told him that he would never use his arm again and that it would have to be amputated. Even the battle-hardened nurse grimaced when she saw the wound. Frank Barroquiero

The flight across the Black Sea from Afghanistan to Germany was just long enough for stabilization. With gangrene a real danger for their patient, medics loaded Barroqueiro onto a C130 for flight to the United States. 

Barroqueiro headed home with an arm so badly shattered that he did not know whether he could ever use it again. Still, he counted himself lucky. Other passengers included a wounded soldier without use of either arms or legs. There were also four coffins, carrying remains to grieving families and friends.

Once Barroqueiro arrived in Georgia, he was admitted to the hospital at Fort Benning. Friends and family reached out. Balloons, cards and flowers filled the hospital room. 

“We felt well-loved and supported,” says Bethany. 

No one knew the severity at first, but to be shot in the arm was a big deal, especially for Frank. He had 10 surgeries to repair the damage and stayed in the hospital for a month of treatment before being released. Bethany never left his side. 

“I would have been lost without her,” says Barroqueiro. 

Then another woman entered his life: Amy Todd. 

New Career Choice

Amy Todd Certified Hand TherapistTodd graduated from the University of Georgia in 1997. She majored in anthropology, with a focus in forensics, and minored in geology. During her educational journey, she studied abroad on more than one occasion. 

She went to Guatemala in 1996 with professor Karen Burns to train a team of forensic anthropologists in identifying remains of people in mass graves from that country’s almost three decades of civil war. That trip enabled her to learn ways of communication and care that would be unattainable without the hands-on experience, which was valuable for her next learning adventure. 

With career prospects in her current field uncertain, Amy caved in to her sister’s prodding and attended an occupational therapy program information session at Brenau University. “I had no desire to go back to school ever before that,” said Amy. She applied and was accepted three weeks later.

“I was drawn to the professor’s enthusiasm and the high standards of the program,” Amy said. “Brenau lit a fire in my soul for hand therapy,” and she was not shy to the security that came with the profession as well as the salary, portability and diverse opportunities. 

Amy was also drawn to working with people and witnessing results. Todd spent her spring break of 2006 doing fieldwork in the Yucatan with Brenau’s program. That experience advanced skills she would soon put to good use. 

“Amy was one of the first students in our inaugural Yucatan trip, and returned there for her second-level fieldwork,” says Occupational Therapy Department Chair Mary Shotwell. 

Never Say Never

Amy Todd first met Frank Barroqueiro at Physiotherapy Associates where she worked. His doctors sent him there so he could gain better motion in his arm and hand. Activities such as changing his newborn daughter’s diaper or playing catch with his son, which seemed so simple to Barroqueiro before Afghanistan, were now almost impossible. 

Amy Todd Certified Hand TherapistBoth the patient and the therapist were dedicated to getting that arm back to full use. 

“We started with Bethany and Frank together, working on edema management and ADL (activities of daily life) modification, then rapidly progressed to gaining motion and daily functions,” Todd says.

He was a good soldier. If Todd asked Barroqueiro to do certain movements he did them and exceeded her requests. “It’s my arm. Of course I am going to be aggressive,” he says.

Todd was aggressive, too. She continually reached out to Brenau professors and other medical professionals, many of who had vast personal experience working with seriously wounded veterans, for suggestions and advice. “She had such a vast network of people,” Barroqueiro says. “I always felt that I was her top priority and that I was receiving the best care possible.”

Thanks to all their hard work together, Barroqueiro has regained use of his right arm, enjoying even the simple things of life.

He can now do the simple things again, things like raising a glass to toast with friends.

Since that night in the bar, Barroqueiro went on to win a gold medal in archery last spring in the Warrior Games, a Paralympic-style competition for wounded or injured service members and veterans. 

Todd’s life changed, too. She married a practicing OT assistant, Brian Clever. She has been an adjunct instructor at Brenau, and currently works at Physiotherapy Associates in Dunwoody, Georgia, as a hand and upper extremity therapist. 

OTD: A New Milestone

For a decade and a half, Brenau has provided one of the top occupational therapy programs among North American colleges and universities. Because the program is based on practical experience, scores of graduates immediately enter the workforce assisting people from many different circumstances such as wounded vets, children with disabilities, cancer patients and the elderly. 

In August, Brenau University will offer another pace-setting, experience-based clinical degree in the profession – the Occupational Therapy Doctorate, which has been approved by the university’s regional accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. 

“I believe the doctoral program will be an amazing addition to Brenau and offer an excellent opportunity for OTs to continue their education,” says Ashley Franklin, a current student in the master’s-level OT program. “I appreciate Brenau’s addition of this program because it enables other OTs to continue to advance our knowledge and enhance future practice prospects.” 

The university already is recruiting doctoral candidates for the first cohort in the program. It is a 36-credit clinical doctoral program for working adults. Candidates will take two courses per semester. 

Dr. Rosalie Miller, who previously co-developed and directed the first online doctorate program in occupational therapy at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, serves as director of Brenau’s OT doctoral program. 

“This program will give current OTs more credibility,” says Miller. “There are only two post professional OT doctoral programs in the Southeast, which makes this much more special to Brenau and its students.”

Frank Barroqueiro is the first to applaud the OT program and education that Amy Todd received. And, you know what? He can. With both hands. 

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