Judas Priest, formed in 1969, was performing at Kentucky’s Louder Than Life Festival when the band’s guitarist Richie Faulkner experienced an aortic aneurysm on stage while performing the 1990 song Painkiller.
An aortic aneurysm is a fatal heart condition that occurs when the artery dissects or ruptures. However, it is heroic and shocking that despite the aortic dissection, he managed to finish the show. He was then taken to the University of Louisville’s Rudd Heart and Lung Center, which was only four miles away.
Another factor that played in favour of Faulkner was that Metallica was set to perform after their performance, due to which the band had a shortened set. He wondered whether he would’ve played till collapsing totally if it had been a full-length set. He stated,
“If it hadn’t happened in such a high adrenaline situation, would my body have been able to keep going long enough to reach the hospital…? We can always drive ourselves crazy with these things, but I’m still alive, thankfully.”
It was quite lucky for the 41-year-old guitarist that the medical center was nearby, as his surgeon told him that most people don’t even make it alive to the hospital. The event triggered Faulkner on an emotional level as he miraculously survived and had a near-death experience. Faulkner opened up stating,
“As I watch footage from the Louder Than Life Festival in Kentucky, I can see in my face the confusion and anguish I was feeling while playing Painkiller as my aorta ruptured and started to spill blood into my chest cavity … Whatever the circumstances, when watching that footage, the truth is, knowing what I know now, I see a dying man. I was having what my doctor called an aortic aneurysm and complete aortic dissection. From what I’ve been told by my surgeon, people with this don’t usually make it to the hospital alive.”
At the medical center, Faulkner was rushed for an emergency open-heart surgery, and some portions of his chest were replaced with mechanical components.
“I’m literally made of metal now,” said the rockstar.
The band has postponed its US tour, rescheduling the 50th anniversary, “50 Heavy Metal Years tour.” The rockstar has expressed his gratitude for simply being alive.
“I’ve always been grateful for the opportunities I’ve been presented with. I’ve always considered myself THE most fortunate man ever — to be able to play my favourite music — with my favourite band — to my favourite people around the world. Today just being able to type this to you all is the biggest gift of all.”
Faulkner says he feels very fortunate to have outpouring support from fans, family, his band, crew, and management. In a statement issued by him, he said he “moved to tears.”
He told Rolling Stone, “I thank you all so much and although I have a recovery road ahead of me, as soon as I’m able to get up and running again, you’ll be the first to know and we’ll get back out there delivering the goods for you all!”
Mariah Lynch, Faulkner’s partner, posted a picture on Instagram, writing, “We’d be lost without him.”
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Faulkner appealed to fans to get examined for unknown heart issues, as he himself did not have any heart condition and the attack came in unexpectedly. He told fans that he doesn’t even have cholesterol, and this attack could have been deadly. The guitarist addressed fans, stating,
“One last thing maniacs, this came totally out of the blue for me – no history of a bad heart, no clogged arteries etc. My point is I don’t even have high cholesterol and this could’ve been the end for me. If you can get yourselves checked – do it for me please.”