Matt Pridham with his father David in the Brains Injury Unit at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney. Photo: Fiona Morris
- Comment: Stop alcohol-fuelled violence - it's killing our youth
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- Punch drunk, part one: Civic remains a hotbed of alcohol-fuelled violence
One punch delivered police to the Pridhams' doorstep in the dead of the night.
The officers knocked, they rang, and banged on the windows, trying urgently to wake parents David and Elizabeth to tell them their son was fighting for his life in Calvary Hospital.
King hit victim Matt Pridham in Canberra Hospital. Photo: Supplied by family
It wasn't clear to them then, but Matt Pridham's rare night out on the town ended with the 25-year-old being punched in a late night attack in Civic this year.
The force of the punch knocked Matt to the ground, causing him to crack his head against the concrete. The severe damage to his brain left Matt with a bleak prognosis when he was transferred to the Canberra Hospital.
''We were basically told by the doctors that they don't get any sicker than this,'' Mr Pridham said.
''It was just shattering, you didn't know from hour to hour if he was going to make it.''
And it didn't get any easier.
The first few days in the ICU were terrifying for the family, with Matt precariously balanced between life and death.
''It was just a constant battle of relieving brain pressure and reducing heart rate, and reducing temperature,'' Mr Pridham said.
''One thing would improve, and two others would [deteriorate].
''They induced a coma, but they had to go beyond that and paralyse him, so his body really had nothing other to do than concentrate on the healing of the brain.''
He had surgery to siphon fluid from his head, which, after early fears over a blockage, helped to relieve pressure on the brain.
Matt is now barely able to walk.
He can talk, although he does so slowly and with the vagueness of someone who doesn't know how old they are, which city they're in, or why they're in hospital.
Police have since arrested and charged a young Canberra man with recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm. He faced the ACT Magistrates Court last week and is expected to appear again next year.
The circumstances surrounding the incident have not yet been revealed in court, and there is currently no understanding that the case involved alcohol.
There have been 611 drunken assaults in Civic alone since the government introduced the reforms that it hoped would stop the violence in December 2010.
That's at least one alcohol-related assault every two days.
Matt is now making painfully slow, but optimistic, progress in Liverpool Hospital's brain-injury unit in Sydney.
His aunt, Lisa Willett, said he still has little understanding of the attack or what has happened to him.
''We tell him every day that he's got a big bump on his head and that his brain's a bit injured,'' she said.
Standing for more than 20 seconds is considered a milestone.
The family have put their lives on hold to help care for Matt, with his mother moving to Sydney to be with him. She is also trying to get guardianship to help look after his finances.
It's still difficult for his father to come to grips with what has happened.
''It was so needless, the fact that it didn't have to happen is the hardest thing to get your head around,'' Mr Pridham said.
''Everyone just expects him to get better and go back to work, but when they see him, they realise how life-changing and serious it is.''
The family have called for changes that would make those who go out looking for fights more accountable.
Mr Pridham believes the courts need to better deter individuals through tougher sentencing.
''Some people just want to go out and biff,'' Mr Pridham said.
''It needs to be less fun for them to do that, if the consequences are real.''
Despite all that has happened, Mr Pridham believes his family will eventually recover.
''It is what it is, you've just got to deal with it,'' he said.
''But at the moment, it's impacting the family, our jobs, it's impacting the relatives and the friends, and most of all it's impacting Matt.
''These people who like punching people don't think about that at the time, unfortunately.''