‘Miami cannibal’ victim recovery: Reconstructing the face and life of Ronald Poppo
Ronald Poppo is alert and in good care at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Ronald Poppo, the 65-year-old victim of a vicious attack on May 26 in Miami, in which more than 50 percent of his face was chewed off by another man, is recovering and in good spirits.
On Tuesday, doctors Nicholas Namias, trauma surgeon and co-director of Ryder Trauma Center, and Wrood Kassira, plastic surgeon, addressed the media at the Jackson Memorial Hospital where Poppo is being treated.
Dr. Kassira and Dr. Namias attended the victim upon his arrival and continue to work closely with Poppo. To show that Poppo is in good spirits, Namias mentioned how right before the press conference, he visited Poppo in his room, where the patient expressed his excitement for the Miami Heat game last night with a “Go Heat!”
From the perspective of the doctors involved, Poppo is physically doing well. He is aware of what happened to him, where he is, and that he is being treated and getting help. They painted a picture of a man with a simple face injury that required ordinary plastic surgery; but this was no ordinary trauma incident.
There was not much that was said regarding attacker Rudy Eugene, 31, and his mental and physical condition the day of the attack. “I wasn’t there, I don’t know,” was the repeated response heard from the panel when prompted to give more details. Eugene was shot dead by police officers at the scene of the crime and is believed to have been under the influence of drugs called “bath salts.”
The media have had a field day with this story, exaggerating many details of the so-called “zombie attack.” But here’s what we know for sure – or at least what the hospital claims is true – about Ronald Poppo’s condition:
-The gruesome pictures circulating the web of Poppo’s face post-attack have been confirmed by Dr. Kassira as being real. “That is how I saw him upon arrival,” she said. A more recent photo shows that Poppo is beginning to regain a more coherent facial structure.
-It is highly unlikely that Poppo will regain his sight, since his left eye was lost during the attack and his right eye has been patched up using his own skin. His ears, however, are intact and his hearing remains strong. His lips and chin remain as they were before the attack, but his nose, forehead, and right cheek suffered major damage.
-A face transplant remains an option. “We have to wait for all the wounds to heal to really make a determination,” said Dr. Kassira. “Secondly, he is going to have to decide if he wants to proceed with extensive reconstructive surgery, which is done using his own tissue. Face transplant isn’t something you just jump into…right now it is really about getting him through this post-traumatic period and then we’ll take it from there.”
-A typical day for Poppo is filled with visits from doctors and nurses and listening to sports broadcasts.
-Poppo’s only relative that was contacted and informed about the attack was his brother, whose name was not released. To the knowledge of the doctors, no friends or family of the victim have visited him during his stay in the hospital.
-Despite having been homeless since the mid-to-late 1970s, Poppo has retained his charisma. “I never use this word to describe anyone,” stated Dr. Namias, “but Mr. Poppo is very charming.”
-As of today, the Jackson Memorial Foundation has raised over $15,000 and continues to take donations. Go to to the hospital website for information on how to contribute.
-Poppo does qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.
-Poppo will work with social workers for his chronic homelessness and mental health workers to help him cope once he is ready to be released from the hospital.
-Around 50 percent of his face was destroyed or damaged during the attack, not 70 to 85 percent, as was stated in some reports. “He is missing the features that really allow someone to express themselves, to react when you talk to them,” said Dr. Kassira.
-He is very aware of the situation. According to Dr. Kassira, he knows that his attacker was killed, and that “he can’t see right now, that he is missing part of his nose, that he has wounds on his face [and] he knows not to touch them.” Kassira referred to him as being “very logical.”
-He is an avid swimmer and wants to go back to swimming.
-His favorite foods are oranges, pizza, and Italian food.
-When asked about the possibility of Poppo’s life turning around, Dr. Namias said that “it would be very odd, but he is certainly getting a host of benefits now that he wasn’t getting before… He hasn’t really talked about the future with me. He is honestly living in the moment, he is just happy where he is at and what is going on for him right now is okay.”
(Photo: Jackson Memorial Hospital)