NORFOLK, VA. (WAVY) — Have you ever skipped a routine trip to the doctor? If you have, then a Hampton man’s story may make you think twice about doing it again.

Tony Martin is a Navy veteran who served for over 20 years and retired as a Chief Petty Officer. He deployed on the USS George Washington and Harry S. Truman working on computers and data collection.

When he turned 50, he went in for his routine physical. Scans revealed Martin had spots on his liver, which turned out to be cancerous.

“You know, it kinda knocks you on your heels when somebody tells you you have cancer,” says Martin.

But Martin’s team of doctors at the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center would quickly learn that it wasn’t only his liver that was the problem. He also had chronic kidney disease and needed a transplant for his kidney as well.

“When you get a liver transplant, you get hit with a ton of anti-rejection medication,” says Dr. Hannah Lee. “And that can hurt the kidneys, so we knew that would insult the kidney and he would end up on dialysis if he didn’t get the kidney at the same time he got the liver.”

Typically, doctors prefer to transplant the kidney and liver at the same time, but due to issues with Martin’s insurance, they would have to perform the procedures separately.

“He actually had a very stubborn form of cancer,” says Dr. Lee. “So our plan was to get the liver first because that’s the most pressing concern.”

Martin’s liver transplant was completed without a hitch in November 2020. That is until he went back for his first post-op appointment.

“The nurse asked me to tilt my head back so I did,” says Martin. “And she swabbed both of my nostrils.”

The next morning, one of Martin’s doctors called him in a panic.

“I asked what’s going on? And then he told me I had COVID,” says Martin.

Martin was immediately admitted back into the hospital and spent the next week in isolation. But, this was just the first obstacle he would have to navigate before ultimately receiving his kidney transplant in May 2020.

“This was a marathon for Tony; he really showed a lot of resilience,” says Dr. Lee.

Over the next 15 months, Martin was on dialysis four hours a day, for three days a week. He would contract COVID again and have a stroke.

“This might sound weird, but I was never scared. I just felt comfortable with this group of doctors,” says Martin.

Martin’s calm demeanor also brought comfort to his doctors.

“Tony is one of my favorite patients,” says Dr. Lee. “He’s a gentleman and a class act … despite all of the odds, he has done excellent.”

Now six months after his kidney transplant, the only complaint Martin has is the number of pills he has to take on a daily basis. He says he’s prescribed over 25 different medications in order to prevent his body from rejecting his new kidney.

But, Martin admits the pills are a minor inconvenience compared to other obstacles he’s managed since he walked into his routine physical in 2019. He’s also spreading awareness of just how important a routine physical is.

“Take care of your health man ’cause you never know,” says Martin.”I’m just happy to be here.”