Sarah & Adam Martin of Talladega, Alabama are often on the road with their two young sons. They travel around the country so Colt can ride youth motocross competitions. But the trip to Columbus is never very easy. The family has been coming to Nationwide Children’s hospital since October of last year so Colt’s younger brother, Mason, can get the care he needs. Describing how it felt as she and her husband looked at what lay ahead for Mason, Sarah explained, “It is a scary and hopeless feeling to not understand what is happening to your child. Especially when they are so young and cannot just tell you exactly what/how they are feeling.”
Mason was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and Tethered Spinal Cord at Children’s of Alabama. Chiari Malformation is a condition in which brain tissue extends out of your skull and pushes on your spinal cord. Tethered spinal cord syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by tissue attachments that limit the movement of the spinal cord within the spinal column. The Martins were referred to Nationwide Children’s hospital during their journey to find out Mason’s diagnosis. Sarah said, “We had been trying to find a doctor to help Mason for two and a half years before we were referred to Dr. Leonard. Mason had de-tether surgery in October 2019 and decompression surgery for his Chiari in January 2020.”
When planning for the first surgery, the Martins found out about the Ronald McDonald House. “It was great having somewhere to stay to close to the hospital. They make you feel at home and Mason loves the playrooms,” Sarah said with delight. “We were there during Christmas last year and he got to see Santa. The House helps Mason feel more comfortable.”
Mason’s parents believe staying at the House helps Mason decompress after a stressful day seeing doctors. Referring to the trips to Columbus, Sarah said, “He was happy to be there, just not so much the hospital. There were wonderful people that would cook for lunch and dinner was so great. After Mason’s second surgery, he wouldn’t eat. I remember there was a restaurant that came in and cooked different pastas. Mason would not stop eating and they were so sweet to him.”
Mason likes to get his bicycle out of the van full of motorbikes and equipment that the family sometimes brings when coming to Columbus and, fortunately, the House has a big back yard for riding around. “I think Mason loves dirt bikes more than his brother, ” Sarah joked. “Mason loves motorcycles more than anyone. I feel like anywhere we go Mason has to have his motorcycles and is always racing.” It seems Mason really looks up to his older brother. “My older son, Colt, got his first motorcycle at three-and-a-half years old and started racing when he was five. In 2018, he won the Loretta Lynn National Championship. Colt is 9 years old now and we are heading back to the National Championship in about 4 weeks for the fourth year in a row.” Sarah pointed out that the motocross community is like a huge, extended family for Mason and the family has made many friends through the sport. “Motocross is a family atmosphere and there is nothing like it,” Sarah exclaimed. “Mason likes to yell at his brother and tell him to go faster or jump higher. He also loves helping his dad work on the bikes. All he wants to play with is dirt bike toys, be at the dirt bike track, and ride.” When it comes to taking Mason on the road for races, Sarah says there’s no place he would rather be. “Mason has a high pain tolerance and he fights through the pain most days to be able to play with his dirt bike toys and watch his brother race. Mason will get down a lot at the races and we travel in a van with a bed so it allows Mason to lay down during the day.”
Some parents might be scared watching their young child riding a motocross bike on a challenging course. But, Sarah said her real apprehension centers on the course Mason’s ailments currently have him on and for any surprises that may come up surrounding those challenges. “It is scary not to know what Mason’s future holds. Mason still suffers from pain in his back, bladder and bowel issues. We are unsure what the future holds but we will make the best of it for Mason.”
Though the trip to Columbus may not be as fun as a trip to another race track for Mason, Sarah says she and Adam have a simple message for volunteers & supporters of the House. “Thank you for all you do. When a family is going through a scary time in their lives, the Ronald McDonald House is a light in the darkness. It is a wonderful atmosphere for the kids and we could not be more thankful for it helping Mason through the tough times. Mason has a lot of anxiety with doctors and hospital. The House makes his experience a lot better.”
Click here to see the viral video of Mason next to his brother at a starting gate that’s been seen eight million times. Safe travels, Mason and family.