Holidays Extra Special for Navy Veteran After Surviving Severe Heart Attack on Morning Run

December 15, 2023

DETROIT (December 15, 2023) – In a heartwarming tale of resilience and second chances, Chris Schornak of New Baltimore is counting his blessings this holiday season after surviving a severe heart attack during a routine exercise run.

“It’s a miracle my heart never stopped beating and that I have no lasting damage,” said Schornak, a 53-year-old Navy veteran and father of four who’s known for his remarkable fitness level and discipline.

On a crisp morning in late September, Chris set out for a jog accompanied by his 18-year-old daughter Karley. “It’s a fun run with my daughter, something we do every Sunday morning,” Chris said. Two miles into the run, the father and daughter even stopped to take a selfie photo on the New Baltimore downtown pier before continuing on.

An hour into the run, Chris—who’d recently been told by his doctor his health was comparable to a professional athlete’s—collapsed by the side of the road, with absolutely no warning at all.

“I went from hero to zero in an instant,” recalled Chris. He would later learn his right coronary artery had become completely blocked after a fragment of plaque dislodged, creating a blockage in the artery.

His daughter Karley immediately dialed 911. An emergency medical services (EMS) team arrived and administered life-saving measures as they made their way to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.

During that time, the EMS team transmitted vital data from Chris’s condition to the hospital’s emergency department. The information was relayed to Dr. Subhi Sbahi, an interventional cardiologist at Henry Ford Health, who quickly deduced that Chris had suffered a STEMI, which is a severe blockage in a coronary artery. Dr. Sbahi rushed into the hospital and had the cath lab ready to receive Chris as soon as he arrived.

“This is the wonderful part of modern cardiology, where we are able to respond quickly and address coronary blockages,” said Dr. Sbahi. He added that Henry Ford Macomb’s highly integrated, quick response program is one of the fastest in the state for successfully treating cardiac arrest cases.

Within two hours of his collapse, Chris’s blockage was removed, and a stent was placed in the artery to restore blood flow. Because of the timely and effective communication between EMS and the Henry Ford team, Chris feels very lucky to be alive. At one point, his wife had told his children to “say goodbye to Daddy, in case he dies.”

“Everything went wrong, but then everything went right,” said Chris. “Everyone at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital was utterly, beyond fantastic.”

Incredibly, just two days later, Chris was discharged, reuniting with his family at home. 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to heart disease facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds in the U.S. and one person dies every 33 seconds from cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Sbahi reminds people for the holidays to not ignore symptoms like chest pains, chest heaviness or pressure, or shortness of breath. “Seek immediate help because it could be a heart attack and your life can be saved if you get quick care,” he said.

In cases like Chris’s, there are no warning signs. However, there are strategies to reduce the risk for heart disease, says Dr. Sbahi.  “Getting an annual health screening with your physician that includes blood pressure monitoring, blood work to check cholesterol and blood sugar levels,” said Dr. Sbahi. He added that not smoking, exercising regularly, managing stress, eating a heart-healthy diet and generally leading a healthy lifestyle will go a long way toward minimizing heart disease. It’s also a good idea to discuss any family history of cardiovascular disease and pre-existing conditions with your doctor.

As Chris continues his recovery, he hopes to use his experience to raise awareness about heart health and the importance of recognizing warning signs. He’s even looking to start a patient-led support group for heart attack survivors. "I want everyone to pay attention to their bodies and not ignore symptoms. Life is precious every day, and not just during the holidays," Chris emphasized.

Along with his daughter and with clearance from his doctor, Chris resumed their Sunday morning runs just one week after the heart attack. “I wanted to provide my daughter a lesson in resiliency and determination, and to finish what you start,” said Chris. A Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot saw Chris, his son Henry, and Karley crossing the finish line together, capturing a moment of triumph.

The Schornaks are now looking forward to a joyful Christmas at home, grateful for the gift of time and health and the opportunity to celebrate together.


“I know I got a second chance and I’m going to make it count,” said Chris.






Cookie Consent

We use cookies to improve your web experience. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use. Read our Internet Privacy Statement to learn what information we collect and how we use it.

Accept All Cookies