JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford says that he is "still shook up" after guitarist Richie Faulkner suffered an acute cardiac aortic dissection during the band's performance at the Louder Than Life festival. Faulkner was rushed to the UofL Health - Jewish Hospital where the cardiothoracic surgery team needed approximately 10 hours to complete a life-saving surgery.
"The good news is he's healing, and his therapy will be picking up the guitar and getting back into these new songs for PRIEST and getting ready for the next batch of road work," Halford told Consequence. "I've had a couple of conversations with him, and he sounds great. I'm waiting to hear that he's picked up the guitar — he's probably picked up the guitar already and his doctors are saying, 'Put that guitar down!'"
The 41-year-old had "an aortic aneurysm and complete aortic dissection" while performing the closing song of PRIEST's set on the final day of Louder Than Life in Louisville. Faulkner later said in a statement: "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."
Aortic aneurysms are "balloon-like bulges in the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart through the chest and torso," according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Dissections happen when the "force of blood pumping can split the layers of the artery wall, allowing blood to leak in between them."
Halford told Consequence that he has not yet seen the video that showed Faulkner's health scare in real time. "I can't look at that yet," he said. "I'm still shook up, emotionally. Eventually I'll try to watch the footage, but [Richie] says in his own words when he looked at that footage he sees a dying man, which is basically what it was."
Rob continued: "It's just incredible that he got through that song and he came to the dressing room and he got changed. Even after the paramedics told him he needs to go the hospital and get a proper look at the stuff, he was like, 'Yeah, I'll be back. I'm going home for a couple days after this show, I'll see you guys in Denver' and walked out the door and then probably less than an hour later he was having over 10 hours of heart surgery. It's just unbelievable."
Faulkner, who is now resting at home in Nashville, spoke to reporters via a video link at the end of last week. He said about the final song of the Louder Than Life concert: "I became a bit light-headed. It didn't go away. I've never fainted before. I've never passed out, but I knew that this felt like I was going to pass out in a minute.
"Luckily, it was about half way into the song," he continued. "So obviously, I had to finish the song. If I had known how important it was, maybe I would have got off there a bit quicker. But I think that's the whole point for me. I had no idea whatsoever what it was.
"Luckily, it was a short set, and we would have come off stage anyway," Faulkner said. "Otherwise, I don't know I would have come off stage."
Faulkner said that he experienced a sharp pain as he was stepping off the stage. "That's when it exploded," he said.
"The more I read about it, the more astonishing it is to me to think that I even made it to the hospital," he added. "The amount of time when I actually go the pain and when I turned up in the hospital and when we were actually operating, it was quite a lot of time. The more I read about it, the more unbelievable — that amount of time — I don't know how I'm still around today."
Faulkner also once again encouraged fans to learn from his experience and closely monitor their heart health.
"Listen, I'm 41 with no history," he said. "You could be the same. Go and get checked. Get in front of it if there's anything like that. If there's not, great. Take it from me: Just go and get yourself checked out."
After Louder Than Life, JUDAS PRIEST postponed the remainder of the U.S. dates on its rescheduled 50th anniversary tour, dubbed "50 Heavy Metal Years". The trek kicked off on September 8 in Reading, Pennsylvania and was slated to run through October before concluding on November 5 in Hamilton, Ontario.
Faulkner joined PRIEST in 2011 as the replacement for original guitarist K.K. Downing.
Faulkner and his girlfriend Mariah Lynch, daughter of former DOKKEN guitarist George Lynch, welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Daisy Mae, in July 2020.