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‘Help save my son’

Mother of three-year-old looking for answers

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 1/21/23

In April of 2022 Neyland Martin woke up with a cough that progressed rapidly into something worse. It’s turned this past year into a repeating nightmare.   

Outside of taking …

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‘Help save my son’

Mother of three-year-old looking for answers


In April of 2022 Neyland Martin woke up with a cough that progressed rapidly into something worse. It’s turned this past year into a repeating nightmare.  

Outside of taking steroids for allergies, he was a regular, happy, healthy boy, just two-years-old at the time. 

Neyland’s mother, Jessica, said they took him to ER where they were transferred to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville.  

Neyland was in complete respiratory failure and spent 17 days being treated like an asthmatic. But there was more. It left him with 41% of his left lung and 21% of his right lung collapsed due to atelectasis. CT scans show the small airways in his lungs are collapsed.  

“They said his lungs were so raw and inflamed, so it just didn’t make any sense,” said Jessica.  

Now, at just three-years-old, he's gone from respiratory problems to neurological problems as he has started losing his ability to walk. Recently, he spent another 12 days in the ICU during Christmas. 

“We need answers,” Jessica says. “Something is attacking his body. His immune system...He’ll go one or two weeks where he can’t use his legs at all.” 

The hospital looked at putting him on a ventilator, but they were unsure if he would be able to come off. More and more he became unresponsive to the usual treatments. His body became so sensitive that when the nurse tried to put a blood pressure cup on his arm, he would thrash in extreme pain. 

“The scream that we heard is something that we would place if somebody was on fire,” Jessica said. “Then it would stop as quickly as it came on.” 

But Vanderbilt, along with other hospitals they’ve been in contact with, has no answers. Even genetics testing provided no complete answers. “When the genetics doctor called, she was like ‘I’m so sorry; I thought this was going to be our Hail Mary,’” said Jessica. 

Jessica said they will continue meeting with the genetics department beginning this April. For now, Neyland goes to physical therapy four times a week in addition to going to a lung specialist.  

“That’s the only answers we get: treat what we see,” said Jessica. “The not knowing is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”  

“We desperately want to get our son into a hospital that specializes in rare childhood diseases. Vanderbilt has told us they have never seen this and can only treat his symptoms that he needs a children’s hospital that diagnosis rare diseases to have multiple tests run on him to get answers, so we can find a cure/diagnosis for my son,” she said.  

Their next hope is getting a research study group solely for Neyland. Though he becomes a bit of a “specimen,” giving doctors the opportunity to do more tests to hopefully provide answers for any child facing this in the future.  

“They made the statement [last Thursday] that they’re going to do everything that they can research-wise, but our end-result would have to be Botson’s Children’s Hospital or the Mayo Clinic,” she explained. Jessica said Vanderbilt offered to arrange everything.  

  The mother of five said she’s always on high alert. And though the family works together to hide a lot from Neyland to make his childhood as normal as possible, the long hospital stays and financial burden take a toll on everyone. 

Jessica herself cannot work due to a medical condition, so their household is down to one income through her husband.  

"The cost is overbearing; we're sinking fast,” Jessica said. They’re behind on most bills due to prolonged stays at the ICU. And, unfortunately, insurance varies from state to state. According to Jessica, their insurance does not cover rare childhood diseases.  

Though all of these treatments cost an unimaginable amount, Jessica said their only priority is to get Neyland better no matter where that may be.  

In the meantime, people from the community have shown support where they can; they hope to start a fundraiser and are donating to the family’s GoFundMe page. To donate, visit gofundme.com and search “Help save my son” by Jessica Martin. 

“Time is of the essence. Anything you can do to help us we would greatly appreciate it. We need help financially all the way around. This has been very hard on our family. We all just want answers so that Neyland can receive the care he needs to get better,” she said.  

Shots and long hospitals stays are now normal for Neyland. And though he has spent three of the past eight months in the ICU, Neyland is still the same sweet and loving boy he always was and will be.  

“He likes the little things...He is so easy to please. If you were to see Neyland, he’s so good; he lights up the room,” said his mother.