It has emerged that Judas Priest guitarist Ritchie Faulkner suffered a ruptured aorta while playing onstage with Judas Priest at the Louder Than Life Festival in Kentucky on Sunday 26 September. He has now issued an update to fans following emergency heart surgery.
"I’ve always been grateful for the opportunities I’ve been presented with," wrote Faulkner. " 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," added the guitarist. "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 ½ 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," reflected Faulkner, "we only had an hour's 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," said the 41-year-old guitarist who replaced KK Downing in 2011. "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."
Judas Priest's next scheduled gig on 6 October 2021 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angles has been postponed, along with their other US tour dates for the month. The band are also due to support Ozzy Osbourne at his comeback gig in Berlin on 26 January 2022.