Man who suffered facial attack recovering, doctors say
Doctors treating MacArthur Causeway attack victim Ronald Poppo say he is staying positive and happy despite his horrendous facial injuries.
BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
Ronald Edward Poppo — possibly blind, horrendously disfigured — is a happy man.
So say the doctors treating him at Ryder Trauma Center, who are amazed at his good nature.
“He has not said one thing that’s negative,’’ said Dr. Nicholas Namias, a trauma surgeon and Ryder co-director. “He’s really just sort of living in the moment.”
Doctors talked about their famous patient’s condition on Tuesday for the first time since paramedics brought him to Ryder on May 26 from the MacArthur Causeway, where a crazed, naked man, Rudy Eugene, chewed off at least half of his face.
In a new development in the sensational case, the doctors described two puncture wounds on the left side of Poppo’s chest, where he sustained a broken rib, raising the possibility that the Miami police officer who killed Eugene might also have injured Poppo.
“It could have been an object. It could have been a bullet, but it’s not an issue anymore,’’ Namias said. “It’s nowhere near the worst of his problems.’’
The holes, which have healed over, “seemed to connect,’’ he said. “There was no foreign body left behind.’’
“It could have happened,” said Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.
Officer Jose Ramirez fired five shots at Eugene, and a source close to the case said that five bullets were recovered from Eugene’s body at the autopsy.
Ramirez “had to take swift action, and bullets have a mind of their own,’’ Aguilar said.
Poppo, who is homeless and an alcoholic, also suffered a short-term brain injury much like a car-crash victim would have sustained. The injury required several CAT scans and likely contributed to Poppo’s initial confusion, Namias said.
Poppo is being treated for an infection unrelated to the facial wounds, Namias added, and is generally in good health.
Poppo’s condition is stable, and doctors said he gave them permission to discuss his case with the media.
“He’s doing well,’’ said Namias, who answered questions alongside Dr. Wrood M. Kassira, the plastic surgeon rebuilding Poppo’s face, and Dr. Jorge Delgado.
They displayed the first officially released photos of Poppo since the incident, and confirmed that unofficial photos taken immediately after the assault are genuine.
In those original photos, Poppo’s face is a bloody pulp, unrecognizable as human. It’s still not known who took them or posted them on the Internet.
“We couldn’t make out what his features were,’’ Kassira said. “Our main objective is to provide [wound] coverage to allow him to recover from the trauma and cope with what’s happened to him.’’
In the new photos, Poppo’s face looks intact from the mustache down. A gauze bandage covers his now-empty left eye socket, and a flap of his own skin protects what’s left of a damaged right eyeball.
Bloody scabs, raw wounds and skin grafts cover the rest of his face. He lost his eyebrows, part of his forehead and right cheek, and his nose.
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