There’s a small scar on Victor Carboni’s jugular notch, that indentation just above where the clavicle bones meet. The scar is in the shape of a cross, and Carboni believes it’s an indication that God and some angels were looking out for him on Christmas Eve two years ago, when, he says, he died.
“I died and came back to life,” he insists, looking up towards the heavens. “He gave me a second chance to see my son and the people that are around me. I’m just glad I’m still here. I should have been dead.”
The last statement is difficult to dispute, for the small scar below Carboni’s Adam’s apple is by far the least of the injuries he suffered on Dec. 24, 2017, when he was struck by two vehicles on Baseline Road, the first knocking him down and the second dragging him more than a kilometre beneath its undercarriage.
Paramedics found Carboni unconscious and in desperate condition. He had a traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung, multiple rib fractures and severe road rash that had torn broad swaths of skin from his hips, back, shoulders, ear, scalp and face. Skin grafts from his legs were needed to replace what had been torn from the rest of his body.
“Am I angry about it? No, I’m frustrated, because I’ll have this for the rest of my life. I can’t deal with it, but I’m going to have to, because it’s there.
“That’s the way it goes.”
He spent months in a coma, and was in the hospital for almost a year. When he finally got out, everything had changed. He no longer craved the crack, heroin and fentanyl that had earlier taken hold of his life, but he’d also lost much of his memory of that same life. He also had nowhere to live; while in the hospital, he lost his Bronson Avenue apartment, his few belongings moved to a storage locker.
Unwilling to go to a homeless shelter for fear of falling back into his old lifestyle, Carboni bounced from couch to couch or slept rough while waiting to climb the city’s long wait list for subsidized housing. After wearing out his welcome with friends, he ended up living in his storage locker, a 5×10-foot room without electricity, miles from his usual Centretown haunts. He had to sneak in and out, he says; if he’d been caught, he and his belongings would have been turfed.
On Friday, though, almost two years after God, angels, paramedics and surgeons saved his life, Victor Carboni, now 54, was given the keys to his new home; a bachelor apartment at Options Bytown Co-op Housing’s residence on Gilmour Street.
“I’m very thankful,” he says. “This is my new start.”
It was, admittedly, an uneven start. On Friday, Carboni stepped off an OC Transpo bus at Holland and Carling Avenues and set down a knapsack he was carrying, which contained his Options Bytown paperwork, a bottle of cologne, a portable DVD player and some movies. A moment later, he says, the knapsack was gone, presumably lifted by someone boarding the bus.
But still. He brought his TV from his storage locker to his new fourth-floor digs, and a friend gave him a used DVD player. He bought a movie — Season of the Witch, starring Nicolas Cage — which he may kick back and watch over the Thanksgiving weekend. A friend also invited Carboni over for Thanksgiving dinner, but as of the early afternoon he was still unsure of his plans. He mostly like to keeps to himself.
And then there’s the matter of returning to some semblance of normal life. His apartment is sparse right now: a single mattress, a plate, a mug and knife, fork and spoon, all provided to him by Options Bytown. He has a few things still in storage to move over, including a couch and some clothes, but not a whole lot more.
He’s also putting some of the details of his life back together, the parts he’s forgotten that friends and relatives, including his 27-year-old son, Jesse, are helping fill in.
And he’d also like to get his own place, but that’s a tall order for someone receiving about $1,100 a month through the Ontario Disability Support Program. But for now, at least, he has a place to call home, and won’t have to spend the winter on the street or in a storage locker.
“I’m sick, I know,” he says. “My bones are going, my body’s going, I’ve got a cold and I can’t do much. So I’m just going to take life as it goes.
“This is Thanksgiving,” he adds, “and I got my apartment.”
There are many people who helped him get where he is now, he says, including the folks at Options Bytown and “the guy from city hall.”
But none, he says, were as instrumental as “the big guy.”
“I thank God every day. I got a second chance at life.”
With files from Andrew Duffy.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019