Video shows face-chewing victim playing guitar

Ronald Poppo recovering after he was attacked by Rudy Eugene in 2012

MIAMI - The Jackson Health System on Tuesday released video showing the man who had much of his face chewed off playing guitar and thanking the community for its support.

The video showed Ronald Poppo, 66, sitting on a hospital bed and wearing a Miami Heat hat as he strummed a guitar.

VIDEO: Ronald Poppo plays guitar, thanks community for support

"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 contributing, I'll always be grateful for that," Poppo said in the brief video, which was shot recently.

Rudy Eugene attacked Poppo on May 26, 2012, along the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, police said. An officer who responded shot and killed Eugene. In a report on the investigation, Poppo told police that Eugene accused him of taking his bible.

Ruth Charles, Eugene's mother, declined comment.

"To tell you the truth, I don't feel like going back to this thing again," she said. "I'm just trying to recover from what happened."

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

"The only thing that he always tells me is that, 'I'm sure that that man had a bad day that day,'" Sigue said.

After spending nearly a month at the Ryder Trauma Center, Poppo was transferred to Jackson Memorial Perdue Medical Center. In the past year, Poppo, who is blind, has gained more than 50 pounds, doctors said. An occupational therapist taught him how to dress himself, feed himself, shower, and shave.

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

"He is blind and so he can't see what he looks like, and furthermore, it's not as important how the world sees him," said Dr. Urmen Desai, 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.

Poppo's caretakers describe him as a charming, cooperative patient who enjoys listening to Miami Heat basketball games on the radio.

"That's the love of his life," said Sigue.

Poppo continues to see doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital for his facial injuries. Miami Lighthouse for the Blind also provides services to him.

"He's a simple guy and he's happy and grateful for being alive," said Desai.

Poppo hasn't allowed any visitors to see him, other than his doctors, nurses and therapists. Sigue said Poppo doesn't answer the telephone in his room and hasn't wanted to talk with relatives other than a sister, who calls the nurse's cellphone to get through.

"He doesn't wander out of his room very often," Copalko said, adding, "He needs to get out and he has refused. But also, I get it. He says, 'My face.'"

Poppo 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.

Anyone who wants to send Poppo a message can do so by using #Wishes4Poppo on Twitter (see feed below). His nurse will read those messages to him next week.


Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.