Justin Faloon has had four heart attacks. He’s endured a quintuple bypass.
He’s received an extraordinarily high number of stents – 35.
Yet perhaps the best part of his story doesn’t involve the care he’s received. It’s about the lives he’s saved.
Justin’s tale dates to the first day of June in 1999, when he was 29 and working as the security manager of a hospital in Bangor, Maine. He woke up one morning with all the classic symptoms of a heart attack – chest pain, pain in his left arm, nausea, profuse sweating and even grey skin.
He tried telling himself it was just the flu, but he was soon calling 9-1-1. He was transported to the hospital where he worked by paramedics that he knew.
A few days later, while still at the hospital, Justin had another heart attack. He then went to another hospital, where he received his first stent, a mesh-like tube that props open a blocked artery.
A smoker with a strong family history of heart disease, Justin knew he needed to change his lifestyle. He cut out foods high in fat and sugar, exercised more and tried to quit smoking.
A few years later, Justin was working in law enforcement in Colorado when he noticed he was easily getting fatigued and short of breath. Doctors placed two more stents. Then a cardiac catheterization procedure showed that he had so much plaque build-up that he needed a quintuple bypass.
That excruciating procedure was in 2004. In 2008, his doctors advised him to find less stressful work, so he moved back to Maine and worked in a canoe factory. That also proved to be too strenuous, so he took a job as lead surveillance agent at a local casino, a role that allowed him to remain seated.
Along the way, Justin’s stent total continued to rise. He received stents in his coronary arteries and within grafted vessels, stents within stents and at least one “full metal jacket,” where the entire artery is lined with stents.
“It was a downhill slope at that point,” Justin said.
In 2011, Justin suffered a heart attack – and another six months later. That did it; his doctor said Justin could no longer work.
While Justin knew it was probably best for his health, leaving the work force at age 44 was a psychological blow.
“Except for recovery times, I’d only been out of work for three weeks in my entire life,” Justin said. “I was an emotional wreck.” And soon, a financial wreck.