By Hayley Gastmeier
Peter Fisher doesn't take anything for granted.
He can walk, talk, work, and laugh, and to the onlooker, he looks like your average Joe.
It certainly doesn't look like his face had been meticulously pieced back together with metal plates during a five-hour surgery.
But, almost five years after a savage attack which left him on death's doorstep, the volunteer firefighter is bright, bubbly, and thankful to be alive.
"Everyone has struggles in life," he said with a smile yesterday.
"There's always someone worse off than you."
Fisher, 53, was brutally assaulted in Martinborough, his hometown, on October 27, 2012, after he went to help a group of young people gathering at a Broadway St home to remove an unwelcome visitor.
He was taken by ambulance to Wellington Hospital in a critical condition, then admitted to the intensive care unit.
He spent more than 10 weeks in hospital, a further two months in a rehabilitation unit, and had to relearn simple tasks, such as walking.
It took surgeon Swee Tan, and four others, five hours to reconstruct Fisher's face, which was essentially shattered. There were extensive fractures to his cheek bones, nose, jaw, and eye sockets.
At the time, Professor Tan said the severity of the injuries resembled that of a plane crash victim.
Through the ordeal, Fisher's family were afraid they would be made to decide whether to switch off his life support.
Although, he admits, he will never fully recover, he is happy with his progress and is grateful for his second chance.
Originally from Porirua, Fisher spoke with the Times-Age yesterday from Masterton's Mitre 10 Mega store, where he has been working for the past four years.
"I told ACC I wanted to do something, rather than sit around all the time."
Following the assault, Fisher spent a year at the gym to get his "right side up and working again".
Now, he's "thankful for everything", and enjoys working five, five-hour shifts a week at Mitre 10 Mega, where the staff and management "all look after each other".
"It beats sitting around at home doing nothing, and it's all about using your head, talking to people, customers, and helping them out."
Affectionally known as "Fish" by close friends and his fellow firefighters, Fisher is a trained chef, a jack of all trades, and "a master of none".
He spent five years cooking and working as a labourer in London before moving back to New Zealand and settling in Martinborough in 1996.
Fisher is in his 24th official year as a firefighter and works with Martinborough Fire Brigade, as well as with Greytown Fire Brigade's road rescue team.
"My father was a fireman, my brother was a fireman, my uncle's a fireman, so it's a bit of a family trait."
Fisher said he found joy in helping train new recruits but these days he takes things a bit easier than he used to.
As he is "not allowed to ride the pumps anymore", a condition of ACC, Fisher is now in charge of operational support, which provides back up support to the crew working on the frontline.
To this day, Fisher, who has a 20-year-old daughter, Sian, and who lives with his long-term partner, remembers nothing of the attack.
"One thing that I did learn was to look after yourself before you look after others.
"If you can't look after yourself, there's no point in trying to look after someone else."
The assailant, Milton Haira, pleaded guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and, in May 2015, was sentenced to six years and six months in jail.