Richie Faulkner Wanted to Go Home Instead of to Hospital Amid Nearly Fatal Aorta Rupture
Judas Priest's Richie Faulkner considers himself lucky in many ways after the events of Sept. 26, 2021. That was the night he was onstage with Judas Priest at the Louder Than Life festival in Louisville when his aorta ruptured as the band was finishing their performance. In a new interview with Guitar World, Faulkner details some of the events that happened in order for him to have gotten the emergency surgery he needed that night.
Faulkner recalls his chest tightening during the show, feeling moderate pain with some shortness of breath, but he was determined to finish the performance. Video was later posted of the musician playing "Painkiller" as his aortic rupture was happening. Following the performance, Faulker collapsed into a chair at the side of the stage.
“I needed to finish the song, but I had the presence of mind to come back from the edge of the stage just in case I passed out from fatigue,” Faulkner revealed. “Luckily, Metallica was headlining that night or we would have played a full set and I probably would have dropped dead onstage.”
“If I had known my heart had split open and I was bleeding into my chest cavity, I might have handled it a bit differently. But I had no idea,” Faulkner added. “I got my jeans and T-shirt on. I didn’t think it was anything really serious and I didn’t want to make a fuss. I probably would have kept going if we did an encore.”
While it was initially suggested by paramedics that Faulkner go to the hospital, the musician initially had another thought in mind. “The original plan before the show was to drive home and have a few days off at the house to spend with our new baby,” Faulkner says. “Then I was going to fly to Denver to meet the band and carry on with the tour. I figured I could still do that. I’d been healthy before the show, so I was like, ‘Obviously, it’s not a big deal. Let’s just get in the car and go back home. It’s going to be okay.’ There’s no question I would have died in the car on the way back home if I even made it to the car.”
At the urging of his medics and his girlfriend Mariah Lynch, the guitarist eventually decided to go to the hospital, and luckily the festival grounds were just five miles from the Rudd Heart and Lung Center at U of L Health-Jewish Hospital.
Faulker says that the aortic rupture "came right out of the blue," and that he really hadn't noticed any warning signs prior that seemed out of ordinary for his given profession.
“In February 2020, I had a physical in England and the doctor checked my blood pressure and said it was a little high, but she said it was okay and there was nothing to worry about," recalls Faulkner. "The Kentucky show was in September the following year, and there was never any indication of any problem before I got halfway through 'Painkiller.'”
One other thing that surprisingly worked in Faulkner's favor was the fact that he was playing a live show just as the incident was happening. The guitarist says, “One question I had for the doctors was how I was able to go on for so long, because, yeah, once these things rupture you’ve usually got minutes and you’re gone. They think that maybe my adrenaline was so high because we were playing and that my heart was pumping hard enough and fast enough to keep me going long enough to get pumped up with more adrenaline and keep me going to the hospital. So I can literally say the power of heavy metal kept me alive long enough to save my life. I was literally, possibly saved by metal.”
The procedure took 11 hours, but Faulkner reveals that they were able to repair the aortic rupture and take care of an aneurysm as well. "There was no heart attack to fix," he adds. "My heart was completely fine. It was the aorta that burst, so they repaired it with a mechanical valve. And they repaired other parts of my heart with bits of metal since the dissection caused a lot of damage. I’m more metal now than ever. I like to joke that I’ve literally got a heart of metal."
He continues, "I know how serious it was and I know I would have died if I didn’t have these miracle doctors." Read more of the Guitar World interview here.
Faulkner has since returned to Judas Priest, who have been working on a new album. In addition, the band will be back on the road this October and November in the U.S. Get your tickets here.