Family hero: Wife saves husband's life after he suffered cardiac arrest while asleep

The seemingly healthy 52-year-old Perth Amboy police detective sergeant almost took his final breath.

Jim Murdoch

Mar 16, 2024, 12:29 AM

Updated 120 days ago


A member of the Perth Amboy police force had a close brush with death. It wasn’t a bulletproof vest or any of his gear that saved his life. It was his own wife who came to the rescue when she saw he wasn’t breathing.
“I went into cardiac arrest at 3 a.m. when I was asleep,” said Rafaelito Cruz.
The seemingly healthy 52-year-old Perth Amboy police detective sergeant almost took his final breath.
“She said I had made a noise and thought I was dreaming,” Cruz says.
“What I assumed was a nightmare ended up being my worst nightmare I guess,” said Cruz’s wife Milinda.
Decades ago, Milinda studied to be a medical assistant – 24 years later, those skills would come under the biggest test ever.
“I look over and see that his lips are already a shade of blue – that's when I realized something was wrong,” she said.
Dr. Jay Stone directs the Cardio Catheter Lab at Community Medical Center in Toms River, where Cruz was taken.
“Sometimes heart muscle goes on top of the artery and the artery grows underneath the muscle and it squeezes the artery and that’s what we see right there,” said Stone. “She is the one who actually saved his life. We just...helped once he got here.”
Milinda had already lost her father to a heart attack and refused to say goodbye to her husband and the dad of her three kids under her watch.
“As I'm doing chest compressions, I’m just thinking all of the things he could potentially miss,” said Milinda.
It took 20 minutes for the Barnegat Township Police and paramedics to arrive but they successfully shocked Rafaelito’s heart back into normal rhythm.
“I don’t consider myself a hero because it’s not just a one-person thing – I may have started it but there’s so much more factors why he’s here,” Milinda says.
“I know that I’m lucky to be here because a) my wife heard me but b) she knew what to do and that’s the most important part she sprang into action,” added Cruz.
Cruz continues to recover and even returned to work last month. He now has a defibrillator implanted to jump-start his heart – in case the condition returns. Their message for the public is to learn CPR.
Stone says many local hospitals offer free CPR classes. He recommends every adult in the home learn these simple life-saving techniques.

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