Judas Priest guitarist has mid-show aortic aneurysm, keeps playing, survives

One of the most serious cardio-vascular disasters that can happen to a person is to have your aorta rupture. When that happens, no fresh blood gets to the rest of the body and you bleed out inside your chest cavity.

This is exactly what happened to Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner during a gig in Louisville, Kentucky, on September 26. Priest was playing the Louder Than Life festival and during the song “Painkiller,” Richie suddenly felt unwell with some incredible pain in his chest. And no wonder.

During that moment, he suffered something called an “aortic aneurysm and complete aortic dissection.” This is bad. Very, very bad. Most people never survive. Yet Richie finished the set and made it to the hospital where he underwent emergency surgery.

Watch the video and see if you can spot exactly when it happened.

Here’s another angle. You can see the expression on his face change at around the 2:30 mark.

Here’s what Richie had to say (via a press release):

“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 [which was just four miles away] 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.”

How did he make it? The adrenaline of playing live kept him alive.

Normally, Priest would have played a longer set but were limited to just one hour by the constraints of the festival set-up. Had they played their usual set, he might have died right there on stage.

Jeezus. How metal is that?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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