A fireman had to undergo open heart surgery because he got an infection after he tried to fish popcorn from his teeth with pieces of metal.
Adam Martin, 41, developed an infection of the heart called endocarditis that is caused by bacteria that spread through the bloodstream.
He had put a piece of popcorn in his teeth for three days and used a pen cover, toothpick, a piece of wire and even a metal nail to get it out.
But putting the objects in his mouth then led to a gum disease that spread to his heart and made him fight for his life.
Doctors managed to save him through surgery to remove an infected blood clot from his leg and another seven-hour surgery to replace a valve in his heart.
Adam Martin, 41, developed a deadly infection just days after using various household items to get a piece of popcorn off his teeth
Martin, who works as a fireman in Cornwall, said he had a fever that made him very concerned about his health. Hospital research showed that he had an infection in his heart
“I was not far from the door of death and I am very lucky,” said Martin, of Coverack in Cornwall.
“The popcorn that’s in my teeth is the only possible cause I can think of. I never eat popcorn again, that’s for sure. “
Mr. Martin had developed endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the inner wall of the heart (the endocardium).
This can cause the heart to swell and the valves to be seriously damaged and even completely destroyed.
Mr. Martin, pictured with his children (from left) Holly (14), George (7) and Megan (15) had to undergo a total of 12 hours of surgery to restore his heart and artery
HOW CAN BACTERIA IN YOUR MOUTH HARM YOUR HEART?
Endocarditis, the illness from which Mr. Martin suffered, is caused by bacteria or infections that spread to the heart through the bloodstream from elsewhere in the body.
The NHS says that bacteria can penetrate the blood through the gums, especially if someone has poor oral hygiene, due to minor cuts.
And gum infections can also spread through the blood and cause infections elsewhere in the body.
This may be because the gums are a weak point for bacteria to get into the blood. They are closely linked to the bloodstream of the entire body and are easier to damage than, for example, the skin.
The connection between the gums and the heart is already well known and having gum disease increases the risk of stroke or heart attack because swelling in the mouth can reflect swelling in blood vessels elsewhere in the body.
The NHS lists bacteria that enter the blood through the mouth or a gum infection as one of the major causes of the disease.
And the metal nail, the piece of wire and the pen lid that Mr. Martin put into his gums to get the popcorn out of it could have caused the reaction that nearly killed him.
The father of three had the popcorn in his teeth while watching a movie at home with his wife Helen in September.
A week later he developed night sweats, tiredness, headaches and eventually a heart murmur, all of which are signs of infection.
He went to a doctor on October 7 and doctors diagnosed a mild heart murmur and sent him for blood tests and x-rays, which were boring.
Martin was sent home with medication to recover on his own, but a few days later he still had flu-like symptoms.
He also developed a blister on his toe – which was later diagnosed as a Janeway lesion, a sign of infectious endocarditis.
Concerned about his deterioration, Mr. Martin went to the Royal Cornwall Hospital on October 18. He was subsequently diagnosed with endocarditis.
Although the popcorn did not cause Mr. Martin’s disease, it may have been caused by damage to his gums with dirty items he used to get food out of his teeth
Martin developed a blister on his toe – later diagnosed as a Janeway lesion – which is a sign of infectious endocarditis
He said: “I felt that something was seriously wrong. I slept a lot and felt terrible.
‘I had pain in my legs and I just didn’t feel well at all. I was hospitalized the same day for tests. At this point I was very concerned.
“I felt pretty sick and knew that I was not right at all.”
A muscle pain in his leg was found to be an infected clot in his femoral artery, which required five-hour surgery to remove.
Meanwhile, Mr. Martin was being treated with medication to fight the infection, but breast tests showed that his heart was severely damaged and needed emergency surgery.
He was transferred to the Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, about 80 miles (129 km) from his home, on October 21, and had seven hours of open heart surgery to replace his aortic heart valve and repair the mitral valve damaged by the infection .
Martin is pictured with two of his children at the Plymouth Hospital, about 80 miles away from his home, where he was taken for his life-saving operation
It took about a month for Mr. Martin to fully recover from his ordeal (pictured left and right in the hospital). He said: ‘It all happened so quickly and it became vague. I don’t go near popcorn anymore, that’s for sure ‘
Martin said: ‘My heart was no longer working properly. It was essentially destroyed. The infection had devoured the valves.
“I should have just gone to the dentist. I don’t want anyone to see what I have done.
“It all happened so quickly and it became vague. I don’t go near popcorn anymore, that’s for sure.
“It’s crazy to think that all this has happened. It was something insignificant. “
Martin recovered quickly after the operation and returned to his wife and three children Megan, 15, Holly, 14 and George, seven at the end of October.
WHAT IS ENDOCARDITIS?
Endocarditis is an infection of the inner wall and the valves of the heart.
Failure to treat can result in life-threatening heart failure.
Endocarditis affects approximately one in 30,000 people in the UK and four in 100,000 in the US each year.
Symptoms often develop slowly over several weeks and may include:
- Flu-like symptoms – tiredness, headache, chills, cough, sore throat
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Pale skin
- Sore muscles and joints
Endocarditis is usually caused by bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart.
It is more common in people who have had heart valve surgery, are suffering from heart disease, are an IV drug user or have poor oral hygiene.
Treatment starts with IV antibiotics.
Surgery may be needed to repair heart damage.
Source: British Heart Foundation