Judas Priest guitarist recounts Louisville surgery that saved his life: ‘I’m literally made of metal now’

Nearly two-thirds of patients with ruptured aortas don't make it to the hospital.
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 4:31 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2021 at 6:41 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - When the heavy metal band Judas Priest pounded out one of their biggest hits “You Got Another Thing Coming,” fans at Louder than Life had no way of knowing guitarist Richie Faulkner was perilously close to death.

”I became a bit light-headed and it didn’t go away,” Faulkner said to reporters from his home in Tennessee. “And I’ve never fainted before, I’ve never passed out, but I knew that it felt like I’m going to pass out any minute.”

At age 41, Faulkner was in good physical shape and had no history of heart problems, but during a demanding Louder Than Life Performance, the main artery from Faulkner’s heart began leaking blood and was about to rupture.

“Luckily, it was a short set,” Faulkner said. “Otherwise I don’t know if I would have come off stage.”

His doctor said the possibility of his survival was growing more remote by the hour.

”About 70 to 80 percent of patients who have the aorta ruptured,” UofL cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Siddharth Pahwa said, “never make it to the hospital.”

Faulkner was in surgery for 10 and a half hours as surgeons replaced his aortic valve and other parts of his heart.

“Five parts of my chest were replaced with mechanical components,” Faulkner said to fans on the band’s Facebook page. “I’m literally made of metal now.”

On Thursday he expressed gratitude to his doctors.

“I can only thank Dr. Pahwa and the team for saving my life, and for giving me more time with my family and my baby girl. That’s what it is,” Faulkner said. “I can’t say anything more than that. It saved my life. My little girl saw me come home and that just means everything. So, I thank him from the bottom of my heart.”

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