Wantagh-Seaford residents rally around injured Levittown volunteer

Fire Department Explorers to host fundraiser on Sunday for Christine Newins

Wantagh Fire Department officials picked up Christine Newins, a 52-year-old Levittown resident and community volunteer in north Wantagh and Seaford, from the airport when she returned from rehabilitation for life-threatening injuries she sustained in a car accident in Carlsbad, Calif.
Wantagh Fire Department officials picked up Christine Newins, a 52-year-old Levittown resident and community volunteer in north Wantagh and Seaford, from the airport when she returned from rehabilitation for life-threatening injuries she sustained in a car accident in Carlsbad, Calif.
Courtesy Kevin Regan

Christine Newins, a 52-year-old Levittown resident, cannot remember Jan. 17 — the day she was hit by a car while jogging on the Pacific Crest Trail in Carlsbad, Calif. Chris Newins, her husband, said that a convertible crashed into her so hard that all of her internal organs twisted.

One of the few moments Christine recalled from the days after the crash was ripping a feeding tube from her nose out of confusion while in the intensive care unit at Scripps Medical Center. Though her doctors and her husband, a longtime Wantagh Fire Department volunteer and physical therapy assistant, would offer more details about her five surgeries and internal injuries and listed the 21 bones that she broke, Christine said her scars truly told her the story.

“That was the biggest thing — seeing some of those scars on my face in the mirror,” she explained. “I have this huge line on my stomach, but I don’t even care. I’m alive.”

When Christine returned home after six weeks of rehabilitation in California, the Newins family had to buy new furniture, rearrange their home so she could move around and begin saving money for medical bills exceeding $1 million. Wantagh and Seaford residents are among the hundreds raising funds for Christine as she continues her recovery — whether they met her through the Fire Department, at church and youth league athletic games or at PTA meetings at Levittown District schools.

A life-changing event

Christine and her son, Patrick, a 21-year-old MacArthur alumnus and former punter for the Generals, traveled to California so he could train with former NFL kicker John Carney in preparation for the regional combine at the Washington Redskins training facility on Feb. 25. All of the Newins children — Jennifer, Patrick’s twin, and Brian, 18 — are athletes like their mother, a star volleyball player who was inducted into the Hofstra University Hall of Fame.

Christine decided to share her athletic knowledge with both her children and their friends by coaching and volunteering for the Levittown Soccer Club, Levittown North Baseball and volleyball leagues based in St. Bernard’s Church in Levittown and St. Frances de Chantal Church in Wantagh. She was also active at her kids’ schools, serving as the historian for the PTA at East Broadway Elementary in Seaford and chairing the MacArthur High School Goal Club to raise money for the Generals’ soccer program.

Chris said that many north Wantagh, Seaford and Levittown parents met Christine on the field at MacArthur while she was shooting hundreds of lacrosse game photos — just so her children and their friends would have keepsakes of their time at MacArthur. She also always brings her camera to events for Wantagh Fire Department Explorer Post 690, which she and her husband advise. The program is for boys ages 14 to 21 who are considering entering the Fire Department or becoming emergency medical technicians.

“I really don’t mind,” Christine said repeatedly about her volunteer work. “These kids are like family to me. Everything that I do, I do it for the kids.”

Chris said that his wife wanted to be there to support Patrick while he was training with Carney in California. Shortly after she dropped her son off at the camp, a 24-year-old motorist driving a convertible hit her, according to the Carlsbad Police Department.

That same morning, Chris sent a text message to Patrick to find out how his training was going. Seconds later, he received a call from the hospital.

“I thought that something had happened to Patrick, so I was expecting to hear my wife’s voice on the other end,” Chris recalled. “Instead, this woman from the hospital asked me if Christine was my wife … I flew out that night with her parents.”

When he arrived, he found his wife “hooked up to every machine known to man” in the ICU. She underwent an eight-hour emergency abdominal surgery — the first of five over several weeks.

Her left kidney and spleen were removed. She broke six ribs on her left side and eight on her right, which punctured and caused her lung to collapse. Pins, rods, screws and plates helped stabilize fractures in her ribs, both collarbones and her left leg. She also suffered a traumatic brain injury and needed a cranial plug. 

Chris said that Christine was “touch and go” for several days, noting that her doctors said that she would have died if she wasn’t so physically fit. Kevin Regan, the public information officer for the Wantagh Fire Department, said that her neighbors and friends continue to be amazed by her strength.

“Christine’s determination to not only survive, but get back to normal, have defied the odds,” Regan said. “Doctors and medical personnel consider her progress a miracle.”

Chris said that his wife would need six to nine months more of rehabilitation and possibly one more surgery on her left knee. Frustrated that she needs help to get up off of the couch, walk from room to room and put on clothes, Christine said she is still adjusting to life after the accident

“I am a very independent person and I don’t like to inconvenience people,” she said. “Now I can’t do anything — literally … What am I going to be like? If I’m being realistic, I have to say that I’m not going to be the same.”

Neighbors offer help

A few days after the accident, Barbara Ann Moore Cast, Christine’s sister, created a page on FreeFunder called “Support Christine Moore Newins.” She used it to update concerned friends and family about Christine’s health in addition to raising funds to offset her medical expenses.

Chris said that while the hospital was in the family’s insurance network, it’s still unclear whether her special surgeries will be covered — and to what extent. “If it comes down to it, a bunch of doctors in California are going to be getting $100 checks for years to come,” he added.

More than 300 people — most from Levittown, Wantagh, Seaford and Hicksville, Christine’s hometown — have raised more than $24,000 for the Newins family online. The Explorers are also hosting a pasta dinner on Sunday to collect money for their beloved adviser (see box).

Chris broke down in tears while recounting the ways that his neighbors and friends have offered to help his family since the accident. Wantagh firefighters drove him to and from the airport every weekend when he flew out West to check on Christine’s rehabilitation. Neighbors also created a digital calendar so people could sign up to cook meals and clean for the family every day.

“It is overwhelming,” he added. “She has touched a lot of lives, so people want to give back to her. Words cannot express how grateful I am for that outpouring of support.”

Describing local folks as selfless, Christine said that residents of Levittown and neighboring communities often raise money to help neighbors who are battling cancer or going through personal struggles. She just didn’t ever expect to be that someone.

“You don’t realize the extent of how you affect so many people with what you do,” Christine said. “I never did it to get anything back for it. I just did it because I was able to and wanted to help.”