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Newman walking the long road to recovery

Charlie Newman was headed on a fishing trip with friends and family when the accident happened that nearly took his life. - courtesy Newman family
Charlie Newman was headed on a fishing trip with friends and family when the accident happened that nearly took his life.
— image credit: courtesy Newman family

Until it happens to you, or someone you love it is hard to grasp the enormity of change that a serious accident or illness can have in a family’s life.

In a heartbeat, the world you have become accustomed to is shattered. Your comfortable, regular life is torn up and tossed to the winds. It affects everything and everyone in your world; from finances, to relationships to plans for the future.

Suddenly everything is different and will remain so for a very long time.

In a split second on Sept. 18, the Newman family experienced such a change. Home from his camp job in northern Alberta, Charlie Newman was heading up Highway 18 enroute to Port Renfrew to take his 13-year-old daughter, Kennedy fishing.

At approximately 6 a.m., near Hillcrest Road, a pickup truck driven by 24-year-old David Foote crossed the centre line and crashed head-on into Newman’s truck. Foote’s male passenger was injured, but was later released from hospital, as was Kennedy.

Foote tragically died.

As for 42-year-old Charlie, so began the fight of his life.

Eleven weeks later, he, his family, friends and a whole extended community are still in there fighting.

“In the beginning the doctors and nurses were not hopeful that he would survive,” said Charlie’s wife, Jill Newman. “We’re thankful that going into this he was such a big, healthy guy with such a strong heart.”

Charlie, 42 suffered a multitude of life-threatening injuries including multiple broken bones, trauma, severe internal injuries as well as three cardiac arrests. He was in critical condition for many weeks after being airlifted to Victoria General Hospital where he remains today.

“He suffered so many injuries, so many broken bones in his lower body. He was on dialysis for weeks as his kidneys had shut down,” said Charlie’s father, Dick Newman.  “He’s just been able to start eating after 10 weeks. He lost so much muscle mass. He lost 70 pounds.”

The incalculable stress, worry and heartache that have become a daily given for the Newman family are ongoing. Thankfully, they have had much help from friends, extended family and the community at large in their struggle.

“It’s been amazing! We feel such gratitude to the entire Cowichan Valley. There has been so much support,” said Dick Newman.” We’ve always done our best to help out and we just never expected it to happen to us.”

Donations and funraising events have been ongoing. The next one scheduled to take place on Friday, Dec.13 at the Cobblestone Pub in Cobble Hill. The event is already sold out.

“He’s come such a long way, but we’ve got such a long way yet to go and it’s going to be a very long road,” said Jill Newman. “He’s slowly progressing and that’s all that I can ask for. For today we’re just taking it in baby steps.”

Jill, a registered nurse, knows perhaps better than anyone the extent of her husband’s injuries and what the long road to recovery might hold. Now that Charlie has passed through the first stage of his recovery, which entailed basically just trying to stabilize his condition, the next hard stretch of road is all about therapy.

Occupational and physio-therapists work with him daily helping his still-healing body to regain strength, movement and a degree of mobility. Charlie is still unable to stand, but can be lifted by a sling into a special wheel-chair. His dad then pushes him around the hospital and grounds, allowing him short respites from the hospital room that has been his home for the past 11 weeks.

For the family, the old daily routines of work, school and regular family stuff have been replaced by endless hours on the road to and from the hospital spelling each other off in shifts at Charlie’s bedside.

“Sometimes it’s hard to process what we’re all going through. It almost feels like it can’t be real,” said Jill. “It’s taken such a toll but we feel so fortunate that he survived.”

The support from the community has been something that has made a tremendous difference to the family and their sincere gratitude is evident.

“It’s hard to accept so much help and I feel extremely humbled that people have gone to such lengths to help us,” said Jill. “We are truly grateful.”

For those wishing to donate to the Newman family to help with Charlie’s recovery click here.

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