In the early hours of Sunday morning, August 21 life for a young Co. Down immigrant living in the Bronx drastically changed after he was savagely beaten unconscious by an unknown attacker on his way home from a night out.
Today 36-year-old Paul Caldwell is waiting to hear about a double cornea transplant so his vision can be restored. He has spent the past 13 weeks in and out of hospital undergoing painful operations to repair the damage that was done to his face that summer’s night in August.
According to doctors Caldwell’s lower face fell away from his face, meaning the lower half of his skull had broken away from his top half during the assault.
On August 20 Caldwell and his girlfriend Andrea had attended the New York Ladies GAA benefit night in Yonkers with friends. When that came to an end the pair continued to socialize with friends in some local bars in Yonkers. As closing time approached Caldwell left a local bar with his friend who got a taxi into the city leaving the Co. Down man to walk home, something he did every weekend because his apartment is only minutes down the road.
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Unfortunately on this particular night there was a man, described by a witness as being in his late 20’s, white and wearing a white dress shirt with blue boxes, dark jeans and dark sneakers, who was waiting to prey on an innocent victim.
As Caldwell approached 241st street in the Bronx approximately 3.45 a.m. that morning he was viciously attacked by this man. Caldwell was thrown to the ground and savagely kicked in his head numerous times before a passerby came to his rescue.
The passerby chased off the attacker and immediately tended to Paul who was lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood. An Irish nurse also came on the scene seconds later. An ambulance was called and Caldwell was immediately taken to a local hospital. The nurse went with him. By this time Paul’s attacker had fled into a local park not to be seen again.
Police have not been able to locate him and the Irish community is now in fear of the same thing happening to them.
Paul, from Rostrevor in Down, allowed the Irish Voice into his apartment last week to share his story and to press upon the community that “it isn’t safe to walk home alone at night.”
Sitting on his sofa, wearing dark glasses to prevent headaches he frequently gets from bright lights, Caldwell spoke softly about the attack, his recovery and how his life has changed so dramatically.
“I still can’t believe it happened,” said Paul shaking his head.
“I haven’t an enemy in the world and can’t understand how this could happen to me.”
Although no money or personal belongings were taken from the Irish man he believes that the attacker hadn’t time to carry out a robbery because the passerby interrupted him.
“I have no idea what he wanted or why he would do such a cruel thing but I’m glad this Good Samaritan came along to save my life,” admitted Caldwell, who lived in Queens for many years before moving to Woodlawn.
Paul, a bricklayer by trade, woke up in St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx to a face he didn’t recognize. His attacker broke every bone in his face leaving him unrecognizable.
“My skull was cracked into pieces,” he said.
“It was very scary to be honest.”
Caldwell’s cousin, Niall Rice from Co. Dublin, told the Irish Voice he was only able to identify him by his shoes.
“When Paul got to the hospital his injuries were so bad that they initially thought he must have been hit by a car, they were that bad,” shared Rice.
Caldwell suffered broken eye sockets, broken cheeks, a broken nose and jaw and received multiple head fractures.
He has undergone numerous operations to rectify the broken bones, has five titanium plates keeping his face together and faces many more procedures to bring him back to the person he was before the attack.
Paul’s eyes were removed for repair but when they were put back in his vision was affected. He is now waiting on news about the double cornea transplant.
“I can’t see anything from my right eye and only about ten to 20 percent on my left, depending on the day. It’s like looking out a frosted window,” he said.
“And then I have to wait a year or two to see if my body doesn’t reject them so it’s going to be a long road to recovery.”
The young man will also need a lot of dental work, cheek and nose repairs down the road.
Paul doesn’t have medical insurance and the medical bills are already making a large pile on his kitchen table.