In December 2008, Cruise came home for a winter break from school that would change his life forever. Within the first week of his return he lost a friend to a drug overdose. On December 16th he and his friends attended the funeral in the morning and then headed to the beach to reminisce. Cruise then started skim boarding with another friend like he had done many times before, but this time when he cut into the wave his board slipped out from underneath him and he fell backwards and hit his head on the hard sand.
His friends on the beach thought he was joking as he lay in the water until a wave flipped him over and he still wasn’t moving. His friend Joey pulled him out of the water and he was then rushed to Delray Medical Center. After multiple x-rays, CAT scans and MRIs he was sent into emergency surgery for the next 6 hours. They replaced his C4 vertebrae with a titanium cage and four titanium pins to stabilize his neck. In a split second Cruise had been paralyzed from the neck down. He spent the next two weeks in the Delray ICU Trauma Unit and then on December 31st he was airlifted to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia for rehab. He remained there for the next 2 1/2 months, working hard to be strong enough to return home.