Greg Griffin never thought he would spend Christmas in an intensive care unit as the latest victim of Sydney's king-hit culture.
The 38-year-old salon owner was walking home after a 12-hour shift on Thursday when he was allegedly punched to the ground by a stranger on Oxford Street, a street known as Sydney's primary nightclub strip.
''It's a total blank. I remember waking up going, 'What on earth am I doing here?' and the nurses told me I had my head beaten in and I was lucky to be alive,'' he said.
After five days in a scared and confused state, Griffin's condition finally improved on Christmas Eve with close friends by his bedside in St Vincent's Hospital.
They feared the worst on Saturday as doctors contemplated placing him in an induced coma because of the intense bleeding on his brain.
''We kept reading about these assaults happening but you never think it'll happen to someone you know,'' said Emer Ryan, a colleague from the John Azzi salon in Manly.
''The hospital called us on Friday morning to tell us what had happened and we just couldn't believe it was Greg. We had to ask them if they had the right person.''
It is a scenario Sydneysiders can expect to become more common, with doctors at St Vincent's warning the city's king-hit culture is reaching epidemic proportions.
Emergency department director Gordian Fulde said the department received at least four or five patients a night who had been punched in the head for no apparent reason. Hospital spokesman David Faktor said the victims stand out because they are almost all young men with bandages over their head saying ''no flap'', signifying that part of their skull has been removed to relieve pressure.
''We can have as many as three or four patients lying in beds almost next to each other all with signs on their skull saying 'no flap','' Mr Faktor said. ''Sadly, it's now a fairly common sight here.''
Griffin has been recovering in the bed next to 23-year-old Michael McEwen, who was king-hit at Bondi Beach five days earlier and woke from a coma last weekend.
Griffin had ducked into the Hungry Jack's on Oxford Street about 10pm when 27-year-old Patrick Gardner allegedly threw something at the back of his head, sparking a verbal altercation between the pair.
Griffin attempted to walk away but was allegedly punched once in the side of the head and collapsed on the pavement.
Gardener fled the scene in a taxi but was found by the police dog squad the next day hiding under a house in Petersham. A day after the incident, a freeze on the granting of liquor licences on Oxford Street was extended to 2015 by Hospitality Minister George Souris because the government was not satisfied there had been improvements in alcohol-related violence.
St Vincent's Hospital trauma surgeon Anthony Chambers said: ''To see some of these young men really in the prime of their lives in a hospital bed, it is heartbreaking and, most of the time, they're innocent victims.''
- Sydney Morning Herald