The homeless victim of last year’s Miami cannibal attack is now “living happily” in hospital, where he is learning to play the guitar while continuing treatment for the shocking facial injuries he suffered.
In a video released by hospital staff to mark a year since the horrific attack, Ronald Poppo smiled and spoke publicly for the first time, thanking “the outpouring of people in the community” and saying he “will always be grateful” for the care and support he has received.
Although the attack has left him completely blind, doctors say Mr Poppo has been working with occupational therapists to learn how to look after himself. He has also started learning to play the guitar and practices daily.
Mr Poppo, who had been living on the streets for 30 years prior to the gruesome attack in May last year, subsequently spent a month in hospital. Since then he has been living at the Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he recently celebrated his 66th birthday.
The initial attack left Mr Poppo with around 75 per cent of his face bitten off after another Miami resident, Rudy Eugene, beat him unconscious, stripped him naked and began chewing his face.
Eugene was eventually shot and killed by police officers who claimed he growled at them when they shouted at him to stop attacking Mr Poppo.
Although it was widely assumed Eugene had been high on bath salts or other psychedelic drugs at the time of the attack, a toxicology report later revealed he only had marijuana in his system. As a result, the real motive for the attack is unlikely ever to emerge.
The case made headlines around the world, with extremely graphic images of Mr Poppo’s injuries being shared online. Much of the damage occurred around the top of Mr Poppo’s face, especially around his eyes and nose and has required several operations to begin to rebuild.
Although Mr Poppo no longer has eyes, the only other obvious sign of the extensive facial injuries he suffered are on his nose - where an open wound is still present and reconstructive surgery is yet to be completed.
Signing off at the end of the video clip released by the hospital yesterday, Mr Poppo says: “Thanks for contributing and helping out. People in my predicament need to be helped out and I am sure there are people also that have the same type of predicament”.