USAWorld News

New York teacher, US Coast Guard member who lost an eye, won’t let ‘freak accident’ define his life


A New York community rallies around a beloved educator after he suffers a terrifying accident and loses sight in one of his eyes.

Thomas “TJ” Foley, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and auto shop instructor on Long Island, was in his garage Oct. 1 polishing a piece of metal when the machine he was using exploded, his wife Christina Sabbiondo told Fox. Digital News.

Since then, family and friends have done what they can to help Foley as he recovers from that horrific incident.

WISCONSIN FATHER-SON DUO THANKS AMERICA’S MILITARY HEROES ‘FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS’

“The support and the fundraising page that was created for me, it’s just an amazing thing to have all these people watching over you,” Foley, 41, told Fox News Digital.

“It means a lot to me. It helps take a lot of the weight off Christina’s shoulders as she’s had to worry about my day-to-day life, in addition to taking care of me. It’s tough.”

TJ Foley, 41, of Long Island, New York, lost all vision in his left eye after a machine exploded in his garage on October 1, 2022. His wife Christina Sabbiondo, pictured with him on the right, said that her husband had had several surgeries already.
(Christina Sabbiondo)

Sabbiondo, who is also a teacher, said on the day of the “life-changing” accident, she was doing homework inside the couple’s house while he worked in the garage.

“He was preparing a piece of tubing for an off-road Jeep,” she said.

“He was using a bench grinder, so it basically has 2 sides. One side has a spinning stone wheel and the other side has a spoked wheel. He was using the side with the spoked wheel.”

Sabbiondo said Foley was operating the machine when suddenly a “loud explosion” occurred. Foley wore the necessary eye protection equipment and followed proper safety protocols.

“He doesn’t remember much else,” she added. “He passed out very briefly, and he was able to come out of the garage to call me.”

TJ Foley is pictured with his wife Christina and their dog.  Foley lost sight in his left eye after a bench grinder exploded on October 1, 2022.

TJ Foley is pictured with his wife Christina and their dog. Foley lost sight in his left eye after a bench grinder exploded on October 1, 2022.
(Christina Sabbiondo)

“At the time, I had just seen a very deep gash in his head – lots of blood, and I called 911,” Sabbiondo said.

“He kept looking at himself in the mirror because he couldn’t see… At the time of the accident, he could only see a small white light out of the corner of his eye.”

Foley was taken to hospital; doctors determined that his eye was badly injured.

He underwent surgery, led by specialists in neuro-ophthalmology and plastic and reconstructive surgeons.

VIRGINIA DAD, A VETERAN, COLLEGE GRADUATE ALONGSIDE HIS DAUGHTER

In total, he underwent about four surgeries that night, Sabbiondo said.

“I had no idea it was going to be this bad,” she said. “I was hoping he wouldn’t lose his sight. He always takes such good care of his eyes, and then it happened. It was a really big blow for him.”

"His hobby at home is working on Jeeps, trucks and cars, so he just extended that to his career because he loves it," Christina Sabbiondo spoke to Fox News Digital about her husband, TJ Foley.

“His hobby at home is working on Jeeps and trucks and cars, so he’s extended that to his career because he loves it,” Christina Sabbiondo told Fox News Digital about her husband. , TJ Foley.
(Christina Sabbiondo)

Doctors said when the machine exploded, the eye protection equipment Foley was wearing saved his life – although the pressure against his head was so strong he still lost his sight, according to Sabbiondo.

“He’s a good person – he absolutely didn’t deserve this to happen to him,” she said.

“Safety is his priority,” she said. “Protection saved his life – [it] just didn’t save his eye.”

Doctors inserted titanium plates to reconstruct Foley’s upper eye socket and cheek. He also suffered fractures in his lower eye socket, as well as a fractured skull.

Foley wore the necessary eye protection equipment and followed proper safety protocols, his wife and friends said.

He now has a blind eye and will be set up to have a prosthesis.

“It’s a lot to process,” Sabbiondo said.

“When he was in the hospital, he was very upset about [the vision loss]but at the same time he had no idea [that] he could have died. I’m just grateful, and so is he, that he’s still alive – no brain damage… He has a severe concussion,” she added. “Doctors are amazed at how he is healing.

TJ Foley is an engineer on one of the US Coast Guard boats. "Boat 47 is his baby," his wife told Fox News Digital.

TJ Foley is an engineer on one of the US Coast Guard boats. “Boat 47 is his baby,” his wife told Fox News Digital.
(Drew Vukov)

Sabbiondo and Foley have been married for 11 years. The couple met at Queens College in New York, where they were both studying to become teachers.

“Everybody keeps telling TJ he owes me and I’m a soldier, but for me there’s no other way,” Sabbiondo said. “TJ is everything to me. He owes me nothing because I know he would do the same for me. He’s my best friend – and I’m so grateful I didn’t lose him.”

"He would do anything for me" Christina Sabbiondo said of her husband, TJ Foley.

“He would do anything for me,” Christina Sabbiondo said of her husband, TJ Foley.
(Christina Sabbiondo)

She continued: “What good would it do anyone if I cried all the time? Nothing will give him back his sight. I have to be strong for him and for us. All we can do is we adapt together and overcome.”

4 VETERANS ROWING 3,000 MILES ACROSS THE ATLANTIC TO HELP US SERVICE MEMBERS WITH PTSD

Sabbiondo said her husband was loved by the students he teaches at Freeport High School in Freeport, New York.

Even during his recovery, Foley asked Sabbiondo to check in with the school to make sure his students are being taken care of and doing well.

TJ Foley and Christina Sabbiondo ride their bikes on a boardwalk in New York.

TJ Foley and Christina Sabbiondo ride their bikes on a boardwalk in New York.
(Christina Sabbiondo)

“He loves helping them succeed,” Sabbiondo said. “He likes to be a positive male role model for them.”

She added, “They really look up to him. He’ll tell me sometimes they want to stay in his store and not go to their other classes.”

She continued, “He’s an amazing husband and he would do anything for me. He keeps thanking me and telling me he’s sorry for what happened.”

TJ Foley and his friend Drew Vukov are pictured with other U.S. Coast Guard Reserve members in this image.

TJ Foley and his friend Drew Vukov are pictured with other U.S. Coast Guard Reserve members in this image.
(Drew Vukov)

Since the accident, students have sent recovery letters to Foley.

Additionally, friends, family and neighbors raised more than $14,000 to help cover Foley’s medical bills through a fundraising site, helpacop.com.

Drew Vukov, a friend of Foley’s who served in the same Coast Guard unit with him for 10 years, helped lead the charge by collecting donations.

“I wanted him to focus on getting better and healing and take away the financial aspect or any negative issues.”

— Drew Vukov

“I don’t want him to worry about a bill, a loss of income,” Vukov, a border control and symptom protection officer, says of Foley.

TJ Foley (far right) stands in front of fellow USCG reserve member and friend Drew Vukov - who helped start Foley's fundraising page.

TJ Foley (far right) stands in front of fellow USCG reserve member and friend Drew Vukov – who helped start Foley’s fundraising page.
(Drew Vukov)

“He has insurance, but I know it won’t cover everything. I wanted him to focus on getting better and healing and taking out the financial aspect or any negative issues.”

Vukov and members of the U.S. Coast Guard stopped by Foley’s home to deliver food and help with landscaping and household chores.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR LIFESTYLE NEWSLETTER

“He’s a very valued friend,” Vukov told Fox News Digital.

“The reason it’s so easy to do is that if the situation had been reversed, he would be there for us – so, it deserves it.”

Machinery Technician 2nd Class TJ Foley stands next to his wife, Christina Sabbiondo.

Machinery Technician 2nd Class TJ Foley stands next to his wife, Christina Sabbiondo.
(Christina Sabbiondo)

Foley said his ultimate goal was to get to a point where it looked like this incident never happened.

“I don’t know if it’s possible, but I won’t let this freak accident define the rest of my life,” he said.

“It’s amazing how in a second your whole life can change.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Vukov said all funds donated through helpacop.com/product/tj-needs-our-help will go directly to Foley.

Foley is a veteran and serving member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. He is currently Machinery Technician 2nd Class – an MK2 – at Shinnecock Station in Hampton Bays, New York.

Fox

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button