Former Villanova Captain DiDonato Continues to Improve

By Chris Goldberg,

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

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