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Orange County brothers strive for normal lives, despite the damage that muscular dystrophy is doing to their bodies
Date published: 5/10/2012
Folks at Virginia Tractor, where Ben works, say the same. Conway's brother, John Faulconer, is a salesman there, and Ben works in the service department.
Fellow staff members modified his scooter, which is like the chairs customers drive around at Walmarts. They put wooden blocks in the seat and another on the footrest so Ben's chest is even with the service counter.
He's able to find things in the service department that others can't, just like his brother at the hardware store.
Ben is not supposed to reach for items above his head or lift anything too heavy. Yet, he regularly pulls down lawnmower blades from upper shelves, causing co-workers to fuss at him.
Ben just balances the blades on his lap and maneuvers to the counter, grinning all the while.
"What's not to like?" John Faulconer said, pointing to Ben, proudly wearing a John Deere hat and jacket. "He's a great guy."
Kerry Hilliard, director of Rikki's Refuge in Orange, said GW helps her find obscure items all the time.
"He's right on the ball, knows everything, and is the first to say, 'Can I help you?'"
She also praised the Faulconers for giving so many opportunities to people with differing abilities.
"They are blind to the things that just don't matter," said Hilliard, who's promoting the online contest on her blog and website. "They have eyes only for the internal value of everyone."
The Plumb brothers were born with Duchenne, a genetic defect that occurs in about one in 3,600 male births. Symptoms, including muscle weakness and difficulty walking, can appear as early as infancy, but usually show up about age 6, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
By 12, most patients are in wheelchairs. That was the case with GW, who can still maneuver the buttons on his wheelchair, but has no other movement. Ben walked until he was 21 and still has upper- body strength.
"I made it through graduation. That was the only thing I wanted to do: to walk across the stage," he said.
"And that was probably because someone told you you wouldn't be able to do it," John Faulconer said.
"Yep," Ben responded, his blue eyes twinkling.
When GW wanted to go hunting, he designed a stand with PVC pipe and camouflage mesh. Folks at the hardware and tractor store built it to his specifications.
"He is the designer, and they are his hands," Jane said.
The Plumbs don't get any disability payments or government assistance. They pay for their sons' health insurance, and Jane said they're blessed that the bills haven't been astronomical.
They wouldn't want things any other way.
"It's more important for us to make ends meet and for the boys to get out and be social than to be stuck in a house dwindling away," Jane said. "I think their work keeps them going. They have their purpose. They have a schedule."
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association is celebrating local heroes by giving away at least three wheelchair-accessible vehicles, valued at about $40,000 each.
GW and Ben Plumb have been nominated as local heroes. The Orange County brothers are 26 and 24 and have Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
To vote, go to nmeda.com/mobility-awareness-month/
The voting started April 1 and ends Sunday. The contest allows one vote from the same IEP address every 24 hours.