Richie Faulkner Almost Refused Ambulance After His Aorta Ruptured Onstage

Photo: Getty Images North America

Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner nearly died last September during a set at the Louder Than Life festival in Louisville, Kentucky.

Faulkner suffered a freakish cardiac event during the performance — a complete aortic dissection — but still managed to complete the final song of the set before collapsing backstage, as his body's largest artery spilled blood into his chest cavity.

Surviving an aortic aneurism like what Faulkner experienced is rare. And he admits in a new conversation with Guitar World that he was almost too boneheaded to accept the medical attention that ended up saving his life.

Fortunately for Faulkner, the renowned Rudd Heart & Lung Center was fewer than four miles from the stage on which he nearly died. Faulkner was rushed into surgery there, where doctors saved his life over the next 10 hours.

Almost a year later, Faulkner can admit he was far too cavalier about the chest pain that knocked him off his feet. He says paramedics had to convince him to go to the hospital, but he insisted on changing out of his stage clothes before getting into the ambulance.

"Luckily, Metallica was headlining that night or we would have played a full set and I probably would have dropped dead onstage," he said. "If I had known my heart had split open and I was bleeding into my chest cavity, I might have handled it a bit differently. But I had no clue."

Faulkner genuinely considered waving off the paramedics entirely and simply driving home to Nashville with his longtime girlfriend Mariah Lynch. Mariah, however, was unconvinced and urged the father of her daughter to go with the medics.

"There's no question I would have died in the car on the way back home, if I ever made it to the car," he added.

Faulkner has had a lot of time to think about how his pride could have cost him everything. But he noted that other than slightly high blood pressure, he had no personal or family history of heart problems, and there were no warning signs before the night of the emergency.

Now, Faulkner is healthy again and is as potent with a guitar as ever. Judas Priest got back on tour this spring.

“It’s so weird because I’m feeling good. I’m feeling strong,” he said. “It feels like a lifetime ago when I was onstage in Kentucky dancing with the Reaper. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be here. I know that. But it’s still hard to believe it really happened.”

Read the full Guitar World conversation here.

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