ATLANTIC CITY — Thomas Richards expected to give a simple thank you to his AtlantiCare caregivers Monday for their work helping him recover from a heart attack and stroke.

Instead, he received a birthday cake.

“My wife and I and our family thank you very much, every single one of you. There’s no way of explaining how good we all feel,” said Richards, of Manahawkin, flanked by friends, family and hospital staff.

In March, Richards was admitted to a different hospital after not feeling well. While there, it was determined he had suffered a heart attack and was then transferred to the Heart and Vascular Institute at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Mainland Campus in Galloway Township.

Before his release, it was determined by members of his care team Richards was undergoing a stroke and he was rushed to AtlantiCare’s Atlantic City campus for further treatment.

“The ball bounced in my favor this time. I was at the right place at the right time,” Richards said.

Richards, who will turn 81 next week, wanted the opportunity to personally thank the team of caretakers who oversaw his recovery.

The squad of medical professionals was so moved by his story, they felt the best way to celebrate Richards’ success was to wish him a happy birthday.

Richards, a former police officer from Hudson County, went on to describe the feeling of being on the receiving end of emergency assistance for once.

“I just want to say thank God. Thank God these people are in the profession they’re in,” he said. “They all stepped up to the plate like true professionals, and I’m alive.”

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