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Shooting victim DiDonato continues to recover after morning surgery

Tuesday, 19th January 2010

Categories Boy's/Men's, Features  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 1/19/10

Former Villanova lacrosse captain Eddie DiDonato, who was shot six times early Sunday morning during an altercation in Philadelphia’s Old City section, underwent surgery this morning and continues to make positive steps toward recovery, his best friend said.

DiDonato, 23, of Blue Bell, remains in critical condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, a hospital spokesperson said.

Rob Forster, who played with DiDonato on La Salle College High’s 2004 state championship team, reported to that after about four hours of surgery doctors at Jefferson remained optimistic for DiDonato’s recovery.

“Today they did some internal (procedures), for anything that was life threatening,” said Forster, who was with the DiDonato family throughout the surgery. “It’s amazing – everything went great. They fixed his colon, his lungs and his hand.

“Everyone is upbeat. It’s a miracle. He is ahead of schedule. He asked his mom if he would be able to walk again and she said, ‘Yes.’ I can’t tell you how happy I am; we’re still praying hard, but in my opinion the toughest part is over and we’re on the road to recovery.”

Forster said that the bullets forced doctors to remove part of DiDonato’s lung on Sunday and that one shot went right through his hand, which is healing well. There is also a small hole in his liver, which is healing, Forster said. DiDonato faces more surgery on Thursday, Forster said.

“To tell you the truth, the first day, on Sunday, everyone was so in shock and worried he might not make it through,” said Forster, a recent graduate of Penn State where he was a standout attackman. “But you can see it in the people’s faces here; they are smiling.

“Honestly, if any one of my friends had this happen, Eddie is the one kid that would make it through. Eddie has been through a lot of physical pain, and he always makes it out fine.

“He is a fighter.”

Forster said DiDonato’s ordeal has become a national story, especially on Facebook, and around the lacrosse community. Villanova started practice for the 2010 season Monday and Forster noted that the Wildcats were full of support for their former teammate. Also, the Villanova Chaplain came to deliver prayers,

“His parents are amazed with the support; it is unbelievable,” Forster said. “I have talked to players from Maryland and Johns Hopkins and they are all praying for him. Everyone at Penn State is praying and coach (former Penn State assistant) Guy Van Arsdale (now head coach at Colorado College) called for his team.

“I see Eddie going through this and coming out of fine. It’s going to take a while, but he sees there is hope.”

The shooting occurred at 2:45 a.m. Sunday in the 300 block of Market Street, just outside the Fox 29 TV studios. DiDonato and the suspect, Gerald Ung, 28, of Philadelphia, were caught on tape by Fox 29 surveillance video cameras, which showed an altercation of which few details have been made public

The video shows DiDonato heading toward Ung during the altercation before taking the six shots to his upper body and hand.

Ung, of the 300 block of South 43rd Street, was charged with Attempted Homicide, Aggravated Assault and related offenses. According to reports, Ung, originally, of Virginia, is a third-year law student at Temple University. According to several news reports, the gun believed to be in the shooting was recovered several miles away by police at Ung’s residence.

DiDonato was an All-American (defenseman) 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, earning Second Team All-CAA honors.

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 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.

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