Bert Brown Jr. watched people cautiously as they passed by him outside a Victoria hospital Wednesday.
The 31-year-old was the victim of a violent axe attack in Nanaimo and, in an interview with CHEK News, considers just how close he came to dying last Saturday night.
“I was just thankful to wake up the next morning, open up my eyes and know I had another breath in me,” said Brown.
Brown’s originally from Tofino and was visiting with friends at a bus stop next to downtown’s Port Place Mall on Feb. 4 around 5 p.m. Witnesses say words were exchanged and a 39-year-old man suddenly pulled out an axe and attacked him.
“It was senseless. And bam an axe came out,” witness Orville Drake told CHEK News Saturday.
“There’s lots of gaps in my memory from bleeding out. A lot of what I remember is just looking at blood in my hands,” recalled Brown.
The axe’s blade fractured his skull, knocking him unconscious. He says doctors have told him he’s lucky to be alive.
“Doctors tell me it could have been life-threatening if it went the other way. ‘You mean just a few inches?’ Yeah,” said Brown.
So, he wants to thank the Nanaimo bystanders who raced to his side, called 911 that night and got him help fast.
“Whoever did that and was by my side at the time, thanks. It means a lot,” said Brown.
Police have arrested a 39-year-old Nanaimo man in the attack.
Brown’s still recovering in a Victoria hospital and is being urged to stay as long as he can because he’s unhoused and living on Nanaimo’s streets.
According to outreach workers, there’s no guarantee of a shelter bed when released from hospital.
Risebridge’s Executive Director Jovan Johnson says Nanaimo’s daytime warming centres are often the only place for released patients who are homeless to go.
“We’re only a daytime service, so there’s often times in the evening we’re sending people out the door who may still have hospital gowns on, or they arrive to us shoeless from the hospital still with major injuries and concerns,” said Johnson, whose non-profit Risebridge operates one of the warming centres currently open in Nanaimo.
“But there’s nowhere for them to go and they’re back out on our streets,” added Johnson.
Brown’s now planning to return home to his family in Tofino and start getting back on his feet after his near-death experience gives him a whole new perspective on life.