ShareThis Page

Runner recalls 'Great' scare

| Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, 11:57 a.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Accute care nurse practitioner Danielle Bajus, 40, of Plum Township, goes to hug Bruce Cornrich, 53, of New Castle, in his hospital room at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Cornich, who calls Bajus his 'guardian angel,' collapsed when he went into cardiac arrest while running the Great Race on Sunday, and was immediately tended to by Bajus, who was running right behind him.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Accute care nurse practitioner Danielle Bajus, 40, of Plum Township, goes to hug Bruce Cornrich, 53, of New Castle, in his hospital room at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Cornich, who calls Bajus his 'guardian angel,' collapsed when he went into cardiac arrest while running the Great Race on Sunday, and was immediately tended to by Bajus, who was running right behind him.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Accute care nurse practitioner Danielle Bajus, 40, of Plum Township, goes to hug Bruce Cornrich, 53, of New Castle, in his hospital room at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. Cornich, who calls Bajus his 'guardian angel,' collapsed when he went into cardiac arrest while running the Great Race on Sunday, and was immediately tended to by Bajus, who was running right behind him.

Bruce Cornrich does not remember putting on his running shirt and racing bib, though a photo he found later on his phone proves he did.

He does not remember driving to the starting line of the Great Race on Sept. 25. He does not remember wishing good luck to his girlfriend, a seeded runner who finished second in her age group.

And he does not remember collapsing on Fifth Avenue in Oakland, just over two miles into the race.

“It's crazy,” Cornrich, 53, of New Castle said Friday from his hospital bed at UPMC Presbyterian. “I remember eating a couple handfuls of dry cereal in the morning. The next memory I have is in the ICU. I had IVs in my hand. I was like, ‘I must be dreaming.' It was so bizarre.”

Cornrich went into cardiac arrest during the annual 10k race from Frick Park in Squirrel Hill to Point State Park, Downtown.

Only 10 percent of people in the United States who suffer cardiac arrest survive, said Dr. Jon Rittenberger, associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and Cornrich's post cardiac arrest physician at UPMC Presbyterian.

Cornrich collapsed face first on the pavement, resulting in several road rash injuries.

A crowd of 15 to 20 people gathered around him, yelling “man down” and waving frantically at a police officer a block away.

Danielle Bajus, an acute care nurse practitioner at UPMC Presbyterian who was running the race, took command.

She instructed runners to roll Cornrich onto his back and elevate his head. She and two other paramedics running the race performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation; an emergency medical technician shocked him with a defibrillator.

“It's still a little surreal,” Bajus said. “With my training, I'd like to think I save lives every day. But because it was out in the street in the middle of a race, it was a little different.”

Cornrich survived because multiple steps were performed perfectly, Rittenberger said:

Bajus and the two paramedics — Jennifer McDermott-Grubb and John Dombrowski — were there to immediately perform CPR; EMS crew chief Mark Bonasso shocked him back to life with a defibrillator; ambulance paramedics maintained a pulse; and it all happened in the shadows of a hospital that specializes in heart care.

“We got him cooled down to protect the brain, then warmed him back up,” Rittenberger said. “The whole system worked for him.”

He said the event illustrates the importance of learning CPR. State legislators are considering House Bill 1464, which would require high school students to learn CPR as a graduation requirement.

Cornrich, a pharmacist, is scheduled for heart bypass surgery Tuesday. He intends to run the Great Race again next year.

Heart problems run in his family — his mother had open-heart surgery — but Cornrich said he never showed symptoms of heart disease.

“No shortness of breath, no chest pain. My cholesterol and blood pressure is good. Nothing,” he said. “When my mom and sister told me what happened, I just couldn't believe it. I thought I was a healthy guy. I eat right. I run all the time. My body weight is good. I never had a problem.”

He urged people to have their heart health checked, even if they feel healthy.

“God and the angels were running with him,” said his mom, Patricia Cornrich.

So was Bajus.

Chris Togneri is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.