PORTAGE PARK — A father of four who was a victim of a vicious baseball bat attack after a traffic dispute on the Northwest Side is improving and will make a full recovery, his wife says.
But the couple will never forget how an off-chance altercation in a crosswalk following a St. Patrick's Day party at a local church earlier this month ended up with the husband bloodied and temporarily comatose.
Linda and Dennis Tisdale had attended the party March 3 at Our Lady of Victory Church then stopped at a nearby bar before returning to their car around 2 a.m.
While they were walking near Milwaukee and Sunnyside avenues, a silver or gray sedan or SUV brushed against the couple.
The angry driver jumped out of the car with a club and the two men began fight, with Dennis Tisdale ending up on top of the aggressor, she said.
"It was all very random and very odd," Linda Tisdale said. "Even when he got out of the car with a bat, I didn't think it was going to get so bad. I had no fear that Dennis wouldn't be able to handle it."
After some pushing and punching, Dennis Tisdale, an iron worker, started to walk away when the man — described as a 5-foot-7-inch, 160 to 180 pound bald man between 25 and 32 years old — hit him with the baseball bat and knocked him down, Linda Tisdale said.
Dennis Tisdale, 35, suffered a traumatic brain injury and a broken jaw as well as injuries to his ribs and hands. He was in a coma when he was rushed to a hospital, where he underwent surgery for a subarachnoid hemorrhage that initially left him unable to speak and partially paralyzed on his left side.
The assailant drove off. Police have released a sketch of the man, who was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt.
"I just want him to be found," Linda Tisdale said of the suspect, adding that she is hopeful an arrest will be made in the next several weeks. "Things are looking up. The detectives have been great."
Although doctors originally told Linda Tisdale that her husband was going to have to spend two to three months in the hospital, he was released in two weeks.
An Army veteran, Dennis Tisdale spends three hours every day in speech and occupational therapy. It will be another three to six months before he can return to work, Linda Tisdale said.
"He's doing better than anyone expected," Linda Tisdale said. "He's mobile, which is a blessing."
Dennis Tisdale, however, has lost 20 pounds, and his energy and stamina are much lower than before the attack.
"His speech is improving every day," Linda Tisdale said. "He's frustrated that he can't work. But we have been told to expect a 100 percent recovery. So we just keep going."
Linda Tisdale, who has taken a leave from her job to care for her husband, said she had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from her friends and neighbors.
"I haven't had to cook a meal since this happened," Linda Tisdale said Monday, adding that every time she opens her door she finds gift cards to Jewel and Dunkin Donuts stuffed in her mailbox. "It warms my heart and breaks it at the same time. It is hard to be on the receiving end of so much."
"I didn't want help from anyone at first," Linda Tisdale said. "It has been very difficult, but I kept telling people we'll manage. But this community is amazing."
The Tisdales had planned to move to Indiana after the school year ended, and had thought they would be busy now putting their Portage Park house up for sale. Those plans are now on hold — perhaps indefinitely.
"I can't imagine leaving now," said Tisdale, who grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago. "We always knew it was a great community, but not to this extent."
An online fundrasing effort launched by the Tisdale family is working to raise $15,000 to cover Tisdale's medical bills. As of 8 p.m. Monday, almost $12,000 has been raised.
In an email, Carranza said he had sped up remodeling work he's having done at the theater because of the fundraiser.
"It's for a good cause," Carranza said. "It's also a good opportunity for the community to see the progress we have made in remodeling."
Trisha Lombardo, who is helping organize the fundraiser, said she hopes between $30,000 and $50,000 will be raised.
"Every time I drive by that corner I get the shivers," Lombardo said.