After Surviving World War II, Ruptured Esophagus Threatens Veteran’s Life

To say 97-year-old retired Air Force Major Glenn Martin has had an interesting life sorely understates the many life-threatening experiences he has survived to be where he is today. Now settled in his Cypress-area home with his daughter, Martin says his faith and his military training sustained him through dangerous military missions during World War II as well as a series of life-threatening medical issues that led him to seek care from physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann who ultimately saved his life.

Martin was working at a jewelry story in Houston when he decided to join the Air Force after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. After completing his training, he was assigned to the 329th Squadron 93rd Bomb Group, familiarly known as “Ted’s Traveling Circus” because of the amount of trips they made between England and Africa completing missions. Martin says his role as first pilot on the B24 Bomber taught him that his life wasn’t in his hands.

“Coming so close to death so many times, I learned we have to rely on others, and our Almighty God, to see us through our struggles. I had to trust my crew members to perform their duties and I knew I was responsible for the safety of my crew of nine men. It taught me to live my life protecting what was mine and to continue to love and cherish my country and my flag,” says Martin.

Martin would also be called back to duty during the Korean War, where he served as squadron commander at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio.

The lessons he learned in the battlefield would stick with him for the rest of his life. Martin says he’s relied on those same beliefs to help him weather multiple serious health problems over the years. In 1963, Martin’s esophagus ruptured, putting him once again in a near-death situation. He was transferred to what was then called Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center where doctors found an infection in his lungs that required extensive surgery to treat.

“From that point on, I had to drastically change my eating habits because my esophagus was so weak. I also had to sleep in a recliner because I could no longer lay flat,” remembers Martin.

Still, Martin says, those side effects were a “small price to pay” for the beautiful life given to him by God and the Hermann Hospital doctor who saved him, Dr. Fred Aves.

Martin’s beautiful life continued long after he retired from the military, as he settled in Houston with his wife and four daughters and started a successful dog boarding business.  His daughter, Glenda, describes their rich existence as full of love and pets of all sorts – including sheep and horses – as well as a deep devotion to their church. Glenda says her father’s faith never wavered, even when his esophageal issues returned earlier this year.

In January, Martin was rushed by ambulance to Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center after he began vomiting blood.

“Glenn’s previous injury led to the development of an esophageal diverticulum, or an abnormal sac formed at a weak point in the esophagus. I performed an upper endoscopy, which uncovered a bleeding ulcer near the diverticulum and attached clips to the area to stop the bleeding,” says Paul Azad, MD, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Memorial City.

Dr. Azad says Martin could have bled to death if he hadn’t come to the hospital when he did, and encourages anyone who coughs up blood, vomits blood, or notices a significant amount of blood in their stool to go to the Emergency Center.

“Those are not symptoms to ignore or brush off. There are a lot of serious illnesses that could be causing the bleeding and it’s important to figure out what’s going on, and figure it out quickly,” says Dr. Azad.

Due to his age, Martin needed to spend additional time in the hospital to make sure he was fully recovered.

“He is a tough guy and I’m not surprised at how well he’s done since then,” says Dr. Azad.

Martin says the care he received through the whole ordeal was beyond his expectations.

“I now tell everyone, ‘I had the best time in the hospital!’ and they chuckle and think I must have been delirious. I am amazed every day at the care I received at Memorial Hermann Memorial City. Every doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist and caregiver gave me immediate and thorough attention,” says Martin.

Gastrointestinal disorders can be a debilitating and complex problem. The Digestive Health Center at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center offers multi-disciplinary, comprehensive care utilizing cutting-edge technology to treat a wide range of issues from Crohn’s disease, to ulcers, and esophageal issues. To schedule an appointment at the Digestive Health Center, call 713.242.4300.

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