In late September, Martin was watching a movie with his wife, Helen, at home and munching on a bag of popcorn, Cornwall Live reported. A popcorn husk got wedged in his gums and teeth on the left side of his mouth, irritating him for three days, the news outlet reported.
Martin tried to dig the irksome kernel out with anything he could find, including a pen cap, toothpick, a piece of wire and a metal nail, the Daily Record reported, before ultimately giving up and trying to ignore the pain.
But weeks after, he started to have night sweats and fatigue, according to Cornwall Live. Assuming he had a cold, Martin made an appointment with his doctor on Oct. 7, where it was discovered that he had a heart murmur, the Falmouth Packet reported. Blood tests revealed evidence of inflammation.
Doctors sent home the former British Army soldier to recover with medication, but the flulike symptoms continued, and he developed a Janeway lesion on his toe, Cornwall Live reported — a hemorrhagic marking on the skin that can be a sign of bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s lining caused by bacteria.
The infection can severely harm or destroy heart valves if it’s not treated immediately, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Eleven days after his first appointment, when he had noticed he was sleeping more than usual and enduring aches and pains in his legs, Martin saw the doctor again. All of his symptoms pointed toward endocarditis, Cornwall Live reported.
“I felt quite ill and I knew I was not right at all,” he told the Daily Record.
After the diagnosis, doctors questioned what triggered it. His constant picking at the popcorn husk stuck in his teeth was the only thing he could think of, according to the Daily Record.
“It’s crazy to think all this happened because of that. It was something so trivial,” he told the Daily Record.
Doctors told Martin and his wife that if they had caught the infection sooner, he might have been able to treat it with antibiotics. The father of three instead endured a nearly five-hour surgery, to remove an infected clot from his leg, as well as open-heart surgery.
A three-day hospitalization after his leg surgery introduced higher infection levels, according to the paper.
“My heart was not properly working anymore," he told Daily Record reporters. “It was essentially wrecked. The infection had eaten the valves away.”
The Oct. 21 open-heart surgery replaced his aortic valve, repaired his mitral valve and treated an abscess, the local outlets reported. Martin was able to go home to his family in late October, and he is being supported by the Fire Fighters Charity until he is fully recovered, according to the Falmouth Packet.
Adam Martin told the Daily Record he feels lucky to be alive. And he says he’s never eating popcorn again.