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The 89-year-old victim of a vicious machete attack is being described as "tenacious" as he recovers in hospital.

Janelle Karatsikis says Bob Plumb, a "grandfather figure" in her life for 17 years, was violently attacked by someone wielding a machete while delivering newspapers in downtown Courtenay early Wednesday morning.

According to police, Plumb had just returned to his car at approximately 4:15 a.m. when he was approached by someone on a bike who initially asked for cigarettes.

The senior replied that he hadn't smoked since 1975 and then sat down in his vehicle before he was struck over the head.

"He's pretty fragile, he's had some health issues before and he's lucky that he was in his car," Karatsikis said.

Karatsikis said Plumb believes the intention was to knock him out but when that failed the person then started slashing him.

The 89-year-old believes he was slashed eight times before he was able to grab onto the machete and wouldn't let go, resulting in injuries to his hand.

Plumb began screaming for help and it was enough to scare the attacker away.

Unable to see his cellphone because of the blood, Plumb then drove himself to the RCMP detachment, a distance of only a kilometre and a half but an admirable feat for someone so severely injured.

"Everyone's amazed that he did that," Karatsikis said. "He has nothing but good things to say about the RCMP that helped him."

His extensive facial injuries include a slash above one eye and one through the other eye.

A GoFundMe account has been created for Plumb's recovery and has already surpassed its target fundraising goal.

"It's been amazing because after an inhumane act like that you start to doubt things and seeing the outpouring of support that he has gotten, it's so nice, it just brings the compassion back," Karatsikis said.

"It's just warmed our hearts, it's so overwhelming to see the outpouring of love and support for him and he was tearful this morning when we reading him some of the messages."

Plumb was expected to undergo a further surgery Thursday evening but there are doubts his eye will recover.

The family says it wants justice and hopes the RCMP catches the person responsible.