One-punch victim Zac Longfield emerges from two-month coma to re-learn how to eat, speak and walk

A young man left in a coma for two months after a violent attack is now learning to walk, talk, and eat again as the next stage of his recovery begins.

Feb 04, 2020, updated Feb 04, 2020
"A feeling of a broken heart and a lump in my throat … as we pass through 2019 and into 2020," Ms Gogerly wrote on New Year's Eve. (Photo: Facebook: Tina Gogerly)

"A feeling of a broken heart and a lump in my throat … as we pass through 2019 and into 2020," Ms Gogerly wrote on New Year's Eve. (Photo: Facebook: Tina Gogerly)

Zac Longfield from Forster, on the NSW Mid North Coast, was celebrating his 21st birthday at Surfers Paradise in November when he was allegedly punched and his head hit the ground, knocking him unconscious.

His mother, Tina Gogerly, said she had prepared for the worst but never lost her hope as she stayed beside him through Christmas and into the new year.

Gogerly said it was hard to express how she felt when Zac came out of his coma.

“The tears have turned from sad ones to happy, and the last three days you have blown even the biggest sceptics away,” she said.

Gogerly said there had been many attempts to reduce his medications and wake him to see how he would react, but it had resulted in him being put back to sleep.

“It was literally from one day to the next. When I looked in his eyes I started to see him again,” she said.

Zac has been moved to the neurological ward and Gogerly said he was aware of who he was and who he loved.

“He communicates with words, signals, and gestures. He is finding his voice again,” she said.

“You can see his frustration because the words are in his head but his brain needs to reprogram his mouth how to speak clearly again.

“His first word was ‘no’, with ‘I love you Mum’ and ‘this is f***ed’ soon afterwards.”

Zac has been accepted to Royal Rehab’s Brain Injury Unit in Ryde, which, she said, was an intense multidisciplinary program that would push him to be as independent as possible.

While his speech is slurred, Gogerly is able to decipher what her son is saying.

“I just want to get down there [to the rehab unit in Sydney] and concentrate on myself and getting better so I can go home,” Zac told his mother.

She said she was now able to think about the future for the first time since the incident.

“I pray every day that we have been through the hardest part, which was Zac surviving this, but I know the marathon is only just starting,” she said.

“The hardest part of watching what’s happened to Zac is knowing that three months ago he was a fully functioning, independent 21-year-old.

“In the blink of an eye it’s been like starting right back at the beginning.”

Challenging assumptions about violence

Two 19-year-old men still face court proceedings, charged with affray and grievous bodily harm.

Kate Seymour, a senior lecturer at Flinders University, said government interventions to shut pubs earlier had not been effective in addressing a key cause of alcohol-related violence.

Seymour said it was a much broader contextual and cultural issue of thinking about how to talk about masculinity in schools, sporting clubs, and in the media.

“It’s around thinking about what we promote, value, and praise young boys for doing,” she said.

Seymour said everyday things such as the way we talk and how prevention campaigns were worded would make a real difference.

“There’s no doubt that alcohol and particular drugs increase the likelihood of violence,” Seymour said.

“They don’t cause violence but lower inhibitions which can make violence more damaging. But they are a secondary issue.”

Seymour also said assumptions about links between testosterone and aggression were not only false but a belief uniquely associated with males.

“What we know is that testosterone doesn’t cause aggression. Everyone has testosterone — boys and girls — and as aggression happens, testosterone levels go up.

“It’s not causative as much as an association. In fact, we see it as what boys do as ‘rough and tumble’.

“But it’s those beliefs that are key because they’re relatively unconfronted and unchallenged and they run very deep.”

Gogerly said she wished people understood the reality of punching someone.

“The life-changing results can’t ever be imagined without seeing it first-hand,” she said.

“I know Zac is one of the lucky ones as so many don’t survive. But saying he’s a lucky one is a contradiction in itself.”


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