Community backs bashed fireman as he recovers

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 13/01/2014
Pete fisher
LOREN DOUGAN/Fairfax NZ
FIGHTING BACK: Martinborough volunteer fireman Pete Fisher is on the road to recovery after an assault that shattered his face and kept him in hospital for nearly three months.

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Pete Fisher is nothing if not determined. It has been just over a year since the 49-year-old volunteer firefighter was beaten within inches of his life after trying to evict a gatecrasher at a party in Martinborough.

He spent a week in Wellington Hospital's intensive care unit, waking from a three-day induced coma to find his face had been shattered - broken cheek bones, a broken and dislodged upper jaw, a badly broken nose, broken eye sockets and three dislodged teeth.

When he woke, the first person he saw was his brother, Paul. He remembers thinking: "What the f... am I doing here?"

He remembers nothing of the assault, and has lost several days before it as well. His last memory is of driving home from his job at Christie Flooring in Upper Hutt, three days before the assault on October 28 last year.

In early November, he underwent facial reconstruction surgery at Hutt Hospital under surgeon Swee Tan, who said he had not seen such extensive injuries since operating on a plane-crash victim.

The jigsaw puzzle of bones was put back together with 12 titanium plates, and Mr Fisher spent two months at Porirua's Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) rehabilitation unit recovering.

He jokes that, despite his partner showing the surgeon a picture of George Clooney as a guide to reconstruction, he still ended up looking the same as he did before.

The head injury makes him tired, and he still has some weakness on his right side - doctors thought he might be paralysed at one stage - but he is working hard to get his strength back.

The Martinborough Fire Brigade, for which he volunteers, raised funds to get him a mountain bike so he can cycle around town and, now that he has finished intensive physiotherapy, he is working out at the rugby club gym.

While ACC hasn't given him the all-clear to get back on the trucks yet, he is training with both the Martinborough and Greytown fire brigades and involved with Greytown's road crash rescue team, which has been competing in national and Australasian champs.

He has continually defied expectations - he was lucky to survive, and then lucky to wake up, lucky not to be paralysed, and now lucky to be walking without a cane.

Although it's a struggle sometimes, he says he has always been the type of person who set out to prove he could do it if someone said he couldn't.

His family - his partner, his parents in Porirua, his brother and sister - the fire brigade and the wider community have backed him all the way, and he is very thankful.

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He was pretty well known around town before, but says people are even more likely to approach him now.

"Sometimes it takes me two hours to get down the street since the surgery, because people are curious and want to ask questions and have a chat."

He knows the road to recovery will continue to be up and down, but his attitude is: "You just carry on."

- The Dominion Post

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