By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/18/10
The best friend of 23-year-old Eddie DiDonato, who was shot six times during an altercation in the Old City section of Philadelphia early Sunday morning, said the former Villanova men’s lacrosse captain and scholastic All-American from La Salle College High remains in critical condition but is coherent and squeezing the hands of family and friends.
In an exclusive interview with Phillylacrosse.com, Rob Forster – who played with DiDonato on La Salle’s 2004 state championship team – said his friend’s fight to live is a “miracle” and that doctors at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital remain optimistic he can survive a stunning incident that saw him get shot in both shoulders, the abdomen, the spine and the hand.
“Right now, we know it’s going to be a long, long recovery, but we’re still optimistic he’s going to get through it,” said Forster.
DiDonato, of Blue Bell, and the suspect, Gerald Ung, 28, of Philadelphia, were caught on tape by Fox 29 surveillance video cameras just outside the Fox 29 studio in the 300 block of Market Street at 2:45 a.m. Sunday. The video shows DiDonato heading toward Ung during the altercation before taking the shots.
Ung, of the 300 block of South 43rd Street, was immediately apprehended and charged in the shooting. Ung was arraigned early Sunday morning on charges of Attempted Homicide, Aggravated Assault and related offenses. According to reports, Ung, originally, of Virginia, is a third-year law student at Temple University.
Forster, who spent many hours at the hospital with DiDonato and his family Sunday, said DiDonato was coherent after the shooting and while in the ambulance as well as when he was taken into Jefferson. Doctors said his top physical condition may have saved his life.
“He lost a lot of blood, but he is regaining it now and it’s just a miracle,” said Forster, who starred in lacrosse at Penn State. “He’s a strong dude and the doctors said that since he’s a healthy kid it’s working to his advantage. It’s a miracle right now.
“Eddie is part of my family. He has been squeezing my hand and giving me the thumbs up.”
Forster said that the DiDonato family is appreciative of the many supportive messages and prayers received through texts and phone calls.
Forster said DiDonato still has five bullets lodged in his body and that one traveled through his hand at the scene. Part of a lung and his small intestine had to be removed in the initial surgery and he is currently in an induced coma while the body rests. He faces many more procedures, Forster said.
“Eddie was coherent during the entire ambulance ride and he was answering questions,” Forster said. “The first surgery was done to stop the internal bleeding. They are still doing some patchwork. No bullet hit the heart or the head, which is good. For now he is resting.
“Eddie was grabbing my hand and telling me, ‘Love you.’ He was mouthing it to me. He could see who I was. A priest from La Salle came to see him and Eddie knew what was going on. He saw my brothers, Jack and Randy and he knew them. He gave two thumbs up and he was shaking his arms around.”
DiDonato, who graduated from Villanova in May with a degree in Criminal Justice, had just begun a full-time job last Monday for Nationwide in Plymouth Meeting.
DiDonato was a key starter on defense for a Villanova team that went 11-6 and won the Colonial Athletic Association championship last year and reached the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time in school history. DiDonato cracked the starting lineup at Villanova midway through his freshman year and was selected to compete in May in the USILA North-South Senior All-Star Game. In 2009, DiDonato, named Second Team All-CAA, picked up 40 groundballs and caused 18 turnovers, second on the team.
DiDonato helped lead La Salle to the Keystone Cup championship as a junior when the Explorers went 28-2 and whipped Shady Side Academy, 13-5, for the state crown. As a senior he led La Salle to the finals of the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Athletic Association tournament when his Explorers (29-3) fell to Haverford School. DiDonato was a two-time all-EPSLA (All-State) pick and played club lacrosse for the Duke’s Lacrosse Club.