A Dapto mum has been left traumatised and blinded in one eye after she was coward punched and knocked unconscious while attending a children's birthday party at a local playground.
Carissa Edwards was hit so hard, her eyeball "popped" open, leaving a full-thickness wound that will require multiple surgical procedures, none of them certain to restore her vision.
There were distressing scenes at Integral Energy Park at Kembla Grange on Sunday, September 17, as numerous children witnessed the violence.
Among them was Ms Edwards' five-year-old son, who attempted to wake up his lifeless mother on the playground floor.
When he was unsuccessful, the boy turned and threw his small fists at his mother's alleged attacker - a man who had been attending a neighbouring celebration - only to be flung away.
Police are investigating the matter and are calling on any witnesses to come forward.
Ms Edwards had been at the park to attend her niece's birthday party.
She told the Mercury her son became involved in an hours-long quarrel with a child from an unrelated celebration at the park in the lead-up to the adult violence.
She said the other party was "amicable" for most of the day, but that she believed a mother in the group began swearing at her son about 4pm.
She said she approached the other mother after the women "had words" with the father of her children, Peter Carter.
"They were playing water fights with water guns all day," Ms Edwards said.
"She was pointing at either [Ms Edwards' son] or Peter for about three minutes, so I walked over.
"I said, 'I'm the mother, do you want to speak to me?' And that's the last thing I remember."
Ms Edwards said she briefly saw her attacker before the man hit her.
Mr Carter said there was a dramatic difference between the size of the "pretty built, heavily tattooed" man and the petite, 27-year-old Ms Edwards, who he said could easily have been mistaken for a teenager.
"He ran from about 20 metres away and then lined her up and then coward punched her - he's run from an angle and kinged her from the side," he said.
"I couldn't get to her at the time because there were four other males trying to hit me as well. Then my son ... had run over to check on his mum.
"She was unresponsive - she's knocked out cold. So he's gone up and started swinging at the man, trying to punch him. The man's just grabbed him by the top of the shirt and flung him a fair way."
"Carissa was on the ground for 10-15 minutes before we could move her away from the situation."
That evening Ms Edwards was rushed to Wollongong Hospital, then to Sydney Eye Hospital, where specialists opted to delay surgery.
"They said if they went in [to operate] they'd have to take my eye, so I had to bed rest for a week," she said.
Doctors diagnosed a global rupture - a full-thickness laceration 4mm wide. Ms Edwards' retina was also slightly detached, with her eye socket and jaw fractured.
"They had to remove dead tissue and muscle to my sclera," she said. "They [medicos] see a lot, and they say this is very, very extensive.
"I've still got no sight - nothing at all. The next thing they've got to do is try and fix the shape of the retina, then put a prosthetic lense in it, then do something to my retina.
"But it's not just the trauma from what happened - I'm going to have to get my kids into counselling, I'm going to have to get myself into counselling.
"And other people's kids would have seen it. It's bloody traumatising. I'm still trying to process it all."
Ms Edwards is anxious to see her attacker brought to justice. She is calling on anyone who witnessed the incident to provide a statement to police.
"I don't like putting myself on show, but something has to be done," she said.
"I could have not got up. At least I'm alive. It could have been someone murdered. How much more serious does it need to be?"
Lake Illawarra Police District is calling on anyone able to identify the man involved in the attack to phone 4232 5599 or contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Read the latest Illawarra court and crime stories here.
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