Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Face-chewing victim recovering, strumming guitar

MIAMI — A homeless man whose face was mostly chewed off in a bizarre attack last year appeared Tuesday to be mostly at peace with his disfigurement, strumming a guitar, making jokes and thanking people for their donations to help pay for his care.

Ronald Poppo doesn't like to leave his hospital room, though, and he won't allow anyone to visit him, other than his doctors and nurses. "My face," he says.

Poppo lost his left eye, his nose and most of the surrounding skin when a naked man attacked him for no reason alongside a Miami highway a year ago.

In a video posted online Tuesday by the hospital caring for him, his left eye socket is a hollow shadow, his blinded right eye is covered by a skin graft and his nose is reduced to just the nostrils. Still, Poppo joked with his nurses and, though he wears a baseball cap, leaves his face uncovered to address the camera.

"People in my predicament need to be helped out, and I'm sure there's other people also that have the same type of predicament. I thank the outpouring of people in the community, I'll always be grateful for that," Poppo said in the brief video.

He spent nearly a month in the hospital after the attack, before moving to a long-term care facility. His doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine praised Poppo for his resilience and said he's satisfied with the surgeries and skin grafts that have closed his wounds.

Poppo could still use his own tissues or prosthetics to replace his nose or eye, but he is not interested in more reconstruction.

"There's still work that can be done, but he's more than happy with how he is now, and he's quite grateful," said Dr. Wrood Kassira, a plastic surgeon.

A facial transplant wouldn't be necessary, since Poppo didn't lose any functions other than his vision.

"To put him through a lifetime of immunosuppression is not something he nor us think is in his best interest," Kassira said.

A Miami police officer shot and killed Poppo's attacker, Rudy Eugene. It's still not clear what provoked Eugene. Callers reported seeing Eugene swinging from a light pole minutes before the attack. Lab tests found only marijuana in his system.

Poppo doesn't blame Eugene for what happened, said Adolfa Sigue, nurse manager at the Jackson Memorial Perdue Medical Center, where he lives.

Poppo, 66, still requires daily medical care for his wounds, and he's working with occupational therapists and specialists from the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind to learn how to adjust to his blindness. He can dress himself and is learning again to play the guitar, an instrument he had not picked up for 40 years.

He's gained 50 pounds, and though his caretakers would like to see him exercise more, he so far refuses to leave the facility unless he's going to the hospital to see his doctors, said Patricia Copalko, a certified nursing assistant at the medical center.

Poppo's caretakers describe him as a charming, cooperative patient who enjoys listening to Miami Heat basketball games on the radio. He can stay at the medical center indefinitely. His care is covered by Medicaid, and a Jackson Memorial Foundation fund has raised $100,000 for his medical expenses.

Face-chewing victim recovering, strumming guitar 05/21/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 11:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday

    Blogs

    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102