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Best friend: DiDonato continues to make great recovery after ninth operation since Old City shooting

Wednesday, 3rd February 2010

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Features  

By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse,com Posted 2/3/10

Former Villanova lacrosse captain Eddie DiDonato has cleared all serious life-threatening obstacles and has been taken off his ventilator following a ninth operation 17 days after being shot six times in an Old City altercation, according to his best friend.

DiDonato, a La Salle College High graduate, remains in the Intensive Care Unit and according to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital officials is still listed in fair condition.

Rob Forster, who has served as the DiDonato family spokesman, said his former teammate on the Explorers’ 2004 state championship team has continued to amaze doctors as well as family and friends with his resiliency. DiDonato was near death after the shootings early on Jan. 17 and survived a major scare 10 days ago when his condition became grave due to an infection.

DiDonato was shot in the upper abdomen, colon, stomach and lungs as well as the hand. Four bullets remain lodged in his body and will not be removed, Forster has been told.

Forster said late Tuesday that DiDonato was sitting in a recliner watching ESPN SportsCenter without his ventilator. The last surgery Monday, meant to close up DiDonato’s stomach, was a success, Forster said. There could be another surgery scheduled, but the focus now is on preparing DiDonato for rehabilitation in the coming weeks, Forster said.

“Everyone is saying how much of a miracle it really is,” Forster said. “If anyone can get through it, it’s him, people say. And I truly had thought the whole time that it was true. Even when he went through that scare, I still had it in the back of my head that he’ll be alright.”

“To see what he’s been through the last two weeks … if he makes it through that, he can make it through anything with the support around him.”

Police continue to investigate the shooting, but have provided few details on the motive or what led to the incident in the 300 block of Market Street.

The suspect in the shooting, Gerald Ung, 28, a third-year Temple law student, is charged with attempted murder and is out on 10 percent of $200,000 bail. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 16.

“I remember the first night; he was almost dead and we were just all still in shock,” said Forster, who played lacrosse at Penn State. “I didn’t even know what to think I was so scared.

“Then I went to visit that night with my brothers and he squeezed my hand and was giving us the thumbs up. Honestly, from that point on, I knew he would make the recovery.

“I’ve been kind of relaying the message for the family out to everyone. I have been so fortunate that all the messages have been positive. The past few weeks have been so emotional – like a roller coaster – but we’ve had lots of highs.

“Just knowing Eddie like I know him, he’s been through a lot of physical stuff and made it out fine. When I heard the doctors say it was very important that he was in such good health and so strong, that’s when I knew he was going to make it through.

“Every time I would go to the hospital, I would see the smiles on the faces of Mr. and Mrs. DiDonato. In the back of my mind, I knew he was going to be OK.”

Forster said the support for DiDonato – through well-wishers, visitors, Facebook, e-mails and texts – has been remarkable, and that DiDonato has felt it.

“No one individual can get through this alone,” he said. “Sports-wise, you learn about being on a team

“You realize how lucky La Salle kids are, or any kid, to be able to play a team sport and be around other people. It makes you work that much harder when you know you have them.”

Forster warned that DiDonato has many weeks of difficult rehabilitation facing him. Still, Forster knows DiDonato is embracing the challenge with help from others.

“It gives me the chills seeing how much everyone really cares about Eddie,” said Forster, who along with DiDonato’s two sisters (Katie and Kristin) have been reading well-wishing messages and e-mails to DiDonato in the hospital. “I can’t even begin to explain how much the support has meant to Eddie and his family.

DiDonato, the nephew of city Republican leader Michael Meehan, was a two-time captain and a four-year starter (defense) at Villanova. He graduated last May with a degree in criminal justice.

DiDonato was an All-American for La Salle in 2005 and a four-year starter at Villanova. He led the Wildcats to the Colonial Athletic Association championship last year and into the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time in school history. He also earned Second Team All-CAA honors.

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 where his Explorers (29-3) fell to Haverford School.

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