Richie Faulkner is now resting at home in Nashville following emergency heart surgery at Rudd Heart and Lung Center at UofL Health - Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. On September 26, the JUDAS PRIEST guitarist suffered an acute cardiac aortic dissection during a performance at the Louder Than Life festival, just a short distance from the hospital.
"He was only four miles away, but miles equal minutes and he did not have many to spare," said Dr. Siddharth Pahwa, cardiothoracic surgeon with UofL Health – UofL Physicians. "Mr. Faulkner is alive today because the stars aligned. He had an outstanding emergency care team, he was close to a world-class heart center, and he was quick to recognize he needed help."
The UofL Health - Jewish Hospital cardiothoracic surgery team, led by Dr. Pahwa, also included Drs. Brian Ganzel and Mark Slaughter. It took approximately 10 hours to complete the surgery, an aortic valve and ascending aorta replacement with hemiarch replacement, that saved Faulkner's life.
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."
Earlier in the week, Faulkner described his medical emergency, writing 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.
"From what I've been told by my surgeon, people with this don't usually make it to the hospital alive," he added. "Five parts of my chest were replaced with mechanical components. I'm literally made of metal now.
"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," the 41-year-old said in his statement.
Faulkner also encouraged fans to learn from his experience and closely monitor their heart health.
"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," he said.
Last month, 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.
Richie was once the guitarist in the backing group for Lauren Harris, daughter of IRON MAIDEN bassist Steve Harris.