Doctor calls face-eating attack victim 'a survivor'

By Glenna Milberg, Reporter, gmilberg@Local10.com
Published On: Jun 12 2012 12:58:07 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 13 2012 11:06:33 AM EDT

MIAMI -

A photo released Tuesday shows a man after an attack during which police say another man chewed part of his face off.

The picture shows Ronald Poppo, 65, with serious damage to the upper part of his face. Click here to see the image. (WARNING: This image is extremely graphic.)

Poppo, who is homeless, was hospitalized after the May 26 attack. Doctors said Tuesday that Poppo is now awake.

A second photo shows Poppo in a hospital gown, walking with the help of two hospital staff members. Click here to see the second image. (WARNING: Graphic)

Dr. Nicholas Namias, the head of trauma at Jackson Memorial Hospital, gave an update on Poppo's condition Tuesday.

"It's amazing. He's an extremely charming man. He's very upbeat. Very pleasant. He's pleased to report to all of you he's doing well. He's eating. He's walking around, physical therapy. He's talking with us," Namias said. "Before I left the room, he asked me if I'd be watching the game tonight, and he told me, 'Go Heat.'"

Police said Rudy Eugene, 31, ripped off part of Poppo's face during a fight on the MacArthur Causeway.

A police officer arrived and fatally shot Eugene.

Doctors said Tuesday that Poppo lost 50-55 percent of his face in the attack.

Dr. Wrood Kassira, a plastic surgeon, said Poppo's left eye was essentially destroyed and had to be removed. His right eye is covered with skin grafts. The doctors plan to try to salvage Poppo's vision, but they are unsure of their success.

"We're hoping in the future there is some kind of vision," Kassira said.

Medical staff at the hospital are wowed by Poppo's charm and his upbeat attitude after what he has been through. Staff members said Poppo knows he has become internationally known and gave permission for doctors to share his progress.

Doctors said Poppo, who lived invisibly on the street for decades and was thrust into the spotlight by the attack, was revealed as a once promising high school student in New York who later became invisible from even his own family.

"The guy has got to be a survivor," Namias said. "Living on Watson Island for all these years, I think he's got to be a survivor, and I think he's become very pragmatic about life. On any given day, he's living in the moment."

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