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Richie Faulkner underwent 10-and-a-half hour open-heart surgery after suffering aortic aneurysm onstage with Judas Priest

Richie Faulkner
(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Richie Faulkner has issued an update regarding his health, after the Judas Priest guitarist was hospitalized in order to receive major emergency heart surgery last week.

In the statement, Faulkner revealed he suffered “an aortic aneurysm and complete aortic dissection” during the middle of Priest’s set at Kentucky’s Louder Than Life festival on September 26, and said doctors informed him that “people with this don’t usually make it to the hospital alive”.

Faulkner underwent a 10-and-a-half hour emergency open heart surgery after being taken to Rudd Heart & Lung Center – also in Kentucky, four miles from the festival – and said that five parts of his chest have now been replaced with “mechanical components”.

Judas Priest announced the postponement of their 50 Heavy Metal Years tour following the onset of Faulkner's heart issues, and though the guitarist has spoken of his upcoming recovery road, he's voiced his eagerness to resume his duties when he's "able to get back up and running again".

Faulkner’s full statement can be found below.

“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. 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 whilst playing Painkiller as my aorta ruptured and started to spill blood into my chest cavity.

“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.

“I was taken to nearby Rudd Heart & Lung Center and quickly went into what turned out to be a 10-and-a-half hour emergency open heart surgery. Five parts of my chest were replaced with mechanical components. I’m literally made of metal now.

“It could have all ended so differently – we only had an hour set that night due to Metallica’s performance after us – and it does cross my mind if it was a full set, would I have played until total collapse? 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?

“The amazing Heart & Lung Center was 4 miles away from the gig site – if it had been further away…

“We can always drive ourselves crazy with these things but I’m still alive thankfully. Whatever the circumstances, when watching that footage, the truth is, knowing what I know now, I see a dying man.

“I’ve been moved to tears and humbled by friends, family, my fantastic band, crew and management and also you guys sending me videos and messages of love and support during the last week.

“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! 

“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.

“Lots of love and see you down the front again soon. Richie.”

Matt Owen

Matt is a News Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.