Brothers Walk Tall on the Farm Despite Genetic Bone Disorder

Imagine spending your entire life growing no taller than an average 8-year-old and wanting to farm, and you may have some idea what it’s like for brothers Tim and Colby Lehman.
Brothers Walk Tall on the Farm Despite Genetic Bone Disorder - Articles

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The Lehmans, ages 17 and 19 respectively, are the sons of Lester and Tina Lehman who operate a dairy farm outside of Chambersburg, PA. Both young men reached their full heights of 48"and 46" as the result of a genetic bone disorder called Dyggve-Melchoir-Clausen Syndrome.

"We began to suspect there was a problem when Colby's growth slowed around 18 months," explains Tina Lehman. "He was 2-years-old before he was diagnosed, and by that time I was expecting again. Tim was just a 1 year old when doctors confirmed that he was affected by the syndrome as well."

Throughout Colby and Tim's childhood, Mr. & Mrs. Lehman pondered about the lifetime care and productivity of the boys. Prior to 2003, the family rented a dairy farm. Because of this, the boys had limited involvement, but had hopes of being fully involved in the day-to-day farm operation at some time. In June 2003, Lester and Tina were able to fulfill their dream of purchasing their own 119 acre dairy. Immediately, Colby and Tim began to take a more active role in farm chores. Milking quickly became a favorite job that required creativity in participation.

"My brother and I used stools to reach the cows in our Double-Ten Parallel Pit Parlor," explains Colby. "It was necessary to climb on and off the stool for each task at each cow. Even though we don't have too much pain in our hips, knees and other joints now, the doctors worry about arthritis and other problems in the future which are common with our condition."

Tim adds, "Milking is my favorite job on the farm. I really enjoy working in the parlor with my Dad and brother. Now that we have the glide, it's even more fun, plus it's much easier and a lot less painful."

Tim is referring to the automatic glide, or trolley, created and installed by Life Essentials. There is a trolley located along the floor of each side of the pit parlor. Equipped with controls for forward and backward motion, as well as storage areas for teat dip, towels, and other essentials, the young men are now able to move along the parlor with ease. They experience reduced strain on their joints, and take a greater responsibility with the milking. In addition to the trolley system, automatic take-offs for the milkers, as well as, power operated steps with a handrail into the pit parlor, were installed in the milking area.

"We are so grateful to AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians' involvement in helping us identify equipment and modifications that make a huge difference for the boys," says Tina Lehman. "And the Office for Vocational Rehabilitation has been supportive by helping us acquire the necessary equipment through their grant resources."

AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians helps farmers and farm family members who are coping with many different kinds of physical challenges, including arthritis, stroke, knee and back problems, amputations, vision and hearing disabilities, and many others. The project is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and is a partnership of Penn State Extension, Easter Seals Central Pennsylvania, and the PA Assistive Technology Foundation.

In addition to their farm chores of milking, taking care of calves, and cleaning the barn with the skid steer, Colby and Tim also enjoy hunting, fishing, and swimming. Both boys also enjoy helping their Dad in the shop, whether it be on farm equipment or small engines.

"We really feel that the more involved the boys can be, the more it raises their self-esteem," notes Lester Lehman. "We wanted to provide a career opportunity for them so that as they mature, they will have a place to use their time and talents. We feel truly blessed to have this farm, and blessed to watch our sons become men."