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Richie Faulkner Confirms His 'Aorta Ruptured' During Judas Priest Show

Photo: Getty Images North America

Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner has issued an update on his health about a week and a half after suffering a major cardiac emergency onstage with the iconic British heavy metal band.

“I’ve always been grateful for the opportunities I’ve been presented with," Faulkner wrote in an update shared by the band. "I’ve always considered myself THE most fortunate man ever — to be able to play my favorite music — with my favorite band — to my favorite people around the world. Today just being able to type this to you all is the biggest gift of all.”

Prior to Wednesday morning, most of what was known publicly about Faulkner's condition came from friends and his girlfriend and partner Mariah Lynch.

Faulkner, 41, says he experienced not a heart attack but an aortic rupture, an extremely rare, deadly condition in which the aorta — the largest artery in the body — swells up and breaks.

Ironically, the agony of the condition hit Faulkner during the Judas Priest classic "Painkiller" — the final song of the band's set that evening at the Louder Than Life festival in Louisville, Kentucky. He says he's since watched footage from the performance, and it's clear that he's in pain.

"...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," he explained. "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."

Faulkner joked that he's now "literally made of metal," due to several "mechanical components" implanted into his chest.

While the Falcon has drawn praise for his steely resolve to finish the set despite experiencing the health emergency, he says he's been thinking a lot about the myriad alternate scenarios in which he could have died last week.

He pointed to the fact that Judas Priest was performing a shorter set, on account of it being a festival appearance, and that the stage was located just a few miles from the hospital where his life was saved.

"If it was a full set, would I have played until total collapse?" he wondered. "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..."

To make matters more bewildering, Faulkner noted that he had no family history of heart disease prior to this incident. He concluded by thanking friend family, fans and his Judas Priest bandmates for their support.

“I thank you all so much," he said. "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!”

In the wake of Faulkner's hospitalization, Judas Priest suspended its 50th anniversary tour. The band says it will reschedule once it as a timetable on Faulkner's recovery.

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