‘I died’: The blow which forced man to ‘relearn’ who he was
A night of revelry turned to tragedy in a matter of seconds.
Students were letting their hair down, they'd donned togas to celebrate the start of a new university semester, it was supposed to be a night of fun and frivolity.
But, as the alcohol flowed at JCU's Uni Bar on August 1, 2019, the life of Nathan Welch changed forever.
A scuffle between two men earlier in the night prefaced the attack, which had devastating consequences.
The young father had been enjoying a night out with friends when he was approached from behind and punched in the head.
Mr Welch was left unconscious in a critical condition clinging to life after the unprovoked attack.
"I died," he said, opening up to the Townsville Bulletin about the impact the attack had on his life.
Mr Welch said he was resuscitated as paramedics rushed him to hospital.
"I just went out for a drink," he said.
"My mate was invited to the toga party at the uni bar.
"I just remember waking up in hospital thinking: 'What happened now?'"
He says he can't remember the assault. His memory of what happened is a compilation of what others have told him.
More than a year after the attack, Mr Welch said thoughts about what happened the night alcohol-fuelled violence "stole his life away" kept him awake.
"I lie there for hours until the sun comes up," he said.
"Everything that happened is pretty much what keeps me up."
Mr Welch was put in an induced coma as result of the attack. He suffered small but lasting brain damage, a fractured neck, his brain swelled and part of his skull was removed to counteract the swelling.
Before, the young father of a six-year-old boy living with autism spent all his time outside and worked in the dirt and mud on cattle stations.
"I have ridden bulls. I rode horses chased by bulls through cattle yards and never came close to death," he said.
"I loved it but I probably can't ever do that again.
"I am angry. Very, very angry. And sad of course. That is what I loved doing."
Mr Welch spent about three days in a coma and four weeks in hospital, largely bedridden, as he began to recover.
During that time he said he had to "relearn" who he was.
"They told me it will take two years to get back to who I was," he said.
"I am not me. I can't put sentences together the way I could.
"I can't really do anything the way I could."
After his discharge Mr Welch spent a considerable time at the hospital and attended three rehabilitation sessions each week.
As his recovery continues, he said he faced daily struggles to do things that previously he never would have thought twice about.
Only recently has he regained control of the most basic human things like his involuntary reflexes but his sense of smell and taste are still affected and he suffers memory blanks under stress.
"My reflexes for the first six months were not that great but I am getting them back pretty good now," he said.
"There are some things I have got to work on. I get really frustrated when I have to do something that is going to better my life.
"Sometimes I am ready to do it. But other times I will get frustrated and say the wrong things."
Mr Welch said he was frustrated when doctors told him he couldn't work outside for a number of years and might never be able to take the risk.
For the time being, as he continues to recover, he is looking to the future.
Originally published as 'I died': The blow which forced father to 'relearn' who he was