Ronald Poppo, Fla. face-chewing victim, is in good spirits, doctors say

This undated booking mug made available by the Miami-Dade Police Dept. shows Ronald Poppo. Poppo has been identified as the victim in a horrific face-chewing attack in Miami on Saturday, May 26, 2012. An officer fatally shot 31-year-old Rudy Eugene, as he ate the face off Poppo in the shadow of The Miami Herald
AP Photo/Miami-Dade Police Dept.
This undated booking photo shows Ronald Poppo, identified as the victim in a face-chewing attack in Miami on May 26, 2012.
AP Photo/Miami-Dade Police Dept.

(CBS/AP) MIAMI - Face-chewing victim Ronald Poppo is reportedly in good spirits following the bizarre attack alongside a busy Miami causeway that left him missing about 75 percent of his face. Doctors said Tuesday that Poppo is talking and walking with the help of hospital staff.

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"He's pleased to report to all of you that he's feeling well, he's eating, he's walking around with physical therapy, he's talking with us," said Nicholas Namias, a University of Miami trauma surgeon and co-director of the Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.

Poppo, 65, has been at the hospital since the May 26 attack when 31-year-old Rudy Eugene assaulted him along Miami's MacArthur Causeway. A witness described Eugene ripping at Poppo's face with his mouth and growling at a Miami police officer who shot and killed Eugene. Autopsy results are pending.

Doctors removed Poppo's left eye but are trying to find a way to restore vision in his right eye. He will likely remain at the hospital for several more weeks and will need more surgeries before he can explore the options for reconstructing his face.

"I've talked to him about reconstruction and he's said we'll take it one day at a time," said Wrood Kassira, a University of Miami plastic surgeon at Jackson. "He's very logical."

A close-up photograph of Poppo released on Tuesday showed the upper two-thirds of his face covered in scabs and grafts. He's missing his nose and both eye sockets were covered, the left with gauze and the right with a flap of skin from his forehead and scalp. His gray beard was trimmed, leaving a mustache over his upper lip.

"It's hard when he smiles to see who he is," Kassira said.

Poppo also suffered two puncture wounds to his chest and a brain injury similar to what happens after a car crash, Namias said. According to The Associated Press, Poppo previously survived a gunshot wound.

Being homeless for nearly 30 years, social workers will try to help Poppo find a place to live. He faced multiple charges of public intoxication among other arrests, according to the AP.

Poppo, aware of the media coverage the face-chewing attack has generated, has requested pizza, orange juice and Italian food to eat. He also talked about swimming, which he used to enjoy. Namias said he asked for the television to be turned off in his room, unless it's tuned to Miami Heat basketball games.

The doctor said Poppo hasn't once complained about his pain.

"He's really just sort of living in the moment and just wants to talk about routine things," he said.

A fund established by the Jackson Memorial Foundation to assist Poppo has raised $15,000. Poppo also qualifies for Medicaid and Medicare, hospital officials said.

Complete coverage of Rudy Eugene and Ronald Poppo on Crimesider