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Jim Brown takes a ride on his new sidecar next to his brother-in-law and best friend, Scott Lavoie. Lavoie designed and built the sidecar especially for Brown, who suffers from primary lateral sclerosis, a rare neuromuscular disease that causes severe muscle weakness. “I can't cure what he's got, but I can make it easier for him,” said Lavoie. (COURTESY)

Bro-mantic gift

Brother-in-law's home-built sidecar gives Bedford man a taste of freedom


Jim Brown and Scott Lavoie are best friends and each other's heroes.

The two brothers-in-law used to enjoy doing many things together, but when Brown was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, things began to change.

Primary lateral sclerosis is a rare neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness as the body's nerve cells progressively degenerate.

"I started showing symptoms in 2000 and have slowly progressed from there. I started using a Rollator walker in the fall of 2004 and began using a wheelchair in 2009," said Brown. "PLS has also taken my speech. I lost it gradually over the last three years. I use a speech program on my iPad to speak. The speech is the toughest thing to deal with for me."Lavoie said he's a tinkerer and soon figured out a way to help his friend enjoy life as much as possible.

In his garage, Lavoie designed and built a sidecar for his motorcycle so he and Brown could ride.

"I thought, 'Why does everyone else get to go for a ride and not him?'," said Lavoie. "I'm a closet inventor of sorts and instead of watching TV, this was my science project."

The sidecar is equipped with a grate on the back that folds down so Brown can drive his wheelchair into place. The sidecar also has independent brakes.

"Scott is a great engineer and fabricator. I love him like a brother. He's the brother I never had," said Brown. "He enjoys building different stuff and this was a big challenge. It took him a year to work all the bugs out of it. The whole family knew about it and kept it a secret."

On the Fourth of July, Brown's two children, Jeff and Stacy, and Lavoie's mother helped celebrate the arrival of Lavoie with Brown's new ride."On Independence Day, we got independent and went for a ride. He was smiling ear to ear," said Lavoie.

At first, Lavoie was hesitant to build the sidecar because a motorcycle could be dangerous, he said, and he didn't want Brown to get hurt. Now, Brown can cruise around."I was never a motorcycle rider and he took a big chance building it knowing I may not like it," Brown said.The two men often go for "Sunday drives," said Lavoie.

"We just try to hit some back roads. We're planing to go to Mount Washington soon, and that'll be an adventure," Lavoie said. "It's good for him and people like him to show people they can do things like that."

Brown is the beneficiary of other Lavoie inventions as well, such as a modified golf cart and a modified lift that allows Brown to go upstairs in his home.

"I took the stairs down and built an elevator so he can change floors," said Lavoie. "I can't cure what he's got but I can make it easier for him. He's a great guy and has a great laugh. He deserves everything because he deals with this every day. He keeps a positive attitude and I try to support that. He's my hero."

sclark@newstote.com


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