MIAMI (CBS4) - Nearly one year ago Ronald Poppo was the target of one of the most gruesome attacks in South Florida's history.
After his face was mutilated and eye gouged out by Rudy Eugene, Poppo was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. On Tuesday several of the doctors responsible for his care talked about his progress.
"Mr. Poppo asked us to talk about him, to thank the community and the doctors for taking good care of him. He's had a long year but he's managed to cope quite well with what has happened to him," said Dr. Wrood Kassira. "I'd say he's content with where he is right now."
While Poppo was not there in person, he did have a message which he delivered via a pre-recorded video.
Click the video below to watch Poppo's message to the community.
"I thank the outpouring of people in the community," said Poppo. "I just want to give thanks to the folks who helped me out. People who live in my predicament need to be helped out."
A visibly heavier and happier Poppo expressed his thanks to everyone who supported him after the gruesome cannibal-like attack on the Macarthur Causeway last Memorial Day weekend. Eugene was walking across the MacArthur Causeway bridge and ran into Poppo, who was homeless at the time. Eugene had stripped off most of his clothes and began attacking Poppo and tearing his clothes off as well.
Poppo, who is blind, has undergone four surgeries to repair the damage done by Eugene who used his teeth to tear the man's face apart.
"He had extensive trauma to his face. It was bad," said Kassira. "We were able to close many of those wounds that were open, and cover the globe and do secondary reconstruction with grafting to other areas."
"Some of the structural aspects of his nose continue to be missing but other than that he is doing quite well," said Dr. Urmen Desai, a plastic surgeon.
And though there is much more work that can be done to make his appearance more normal, including a prosthetic nose and eye, Poppo has insisted he doesn't want any more help. That decision was difficult for some of the doctors treating him.
"It took me a few months to realize that, 'Do we want to rebuild his nose and reconstruct his face for us or do we want to rebuild it for him?'. He's not interested. He can't see what he looks like and its not important to him what he looks like," said Dr. Desai.
The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind is helping him cope with his loss of vision and become more independent. He's learning to use a cane.
"At this point he is at least content, if not completely happy," said his case manager Graciela Perez.
Poppo is now playing guitar, like he used to before his life on the streets. He's also a huge Heat fan and listens to the games on the radio.
No family members have visited him but he speaks occasionally on the phone with his sister. Despite all the extra help his nurses and doctors at the Perdue Medical Center give him he does not like a fuss to be made over him.
"He wants world to know he's not traumatized by this, that he's happy and grateful for all of the staff at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Perdue facility, and that he's a simple guy and he's happy and grateful for being alive after such an incident," said Dr. Desai.
For the most part Poppo's medical treatment is complete. He is fully funded by Medicaid and can remain at the long term medical facility indefinitely. He also has $100,000 in a foundation fund thanks to the community.
Anyone who would like to send him a message can do so on Twitter at #wishes4poppo.
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