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 thats negative, said Dr. Nicholas Namias, a trauma surgeon and Ryder co-director. Hes really just sort of living in the moment.
Doctors talked about their famous patients 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 Poppos 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 its not an issue anymore, Namias said. Its 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 Eugenes 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 Poppos initial confusion, Namias said.
Poppo is being treated for an infection unrelated to the facial wounds, Namias added, and is generally in good health.
Poppos condition is stable, and doctors said he gave them permission to discuss his case with the media.
Hes doing well, said Namias, who answered questions alongside Dr. Wrood M. Kassira, the plastic surgeon rebuilding Poppos 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, Poppos face is a bloody pulp, unrecognizable as human. Its still not known who took them or posted them on the Internet.
We couldnt 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 whats happened to him.
In the new photos, Poppos 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 whats 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.
Where the nose once was, Kassira said, youre seeing what we call exudate, defined as a fluid with a high content of protein and cellular debris which has escaped from blood vessels and has been deposited in tissues or on tissue surfaces.
Eventually, that area will slough off and youll have healed new tissue underneath, she said. The cartilage is technically not exposed.
Kassira said she had talked about reconstructive surgery with Poppo, and that he said: Well take it one day at a time. Hes very logical ... This is a long process.
How much reconstructive surgery Poppo undergoes will be largely up to him, Kassira said . Medicare and Medicaid are paying for much of his care.
If he doesnt get his vision back, is he more concerned about how he looks or about how the world treats him? Kassira asked.
The doctors said that Poppo, who has been homeless for more than half of his 65 years, knows he might be blind. Surgeons removed his left eyeball, and no one knows if he has sight in his damaged right eye.
They said Poppo knows what happened to him, knows its a huge news story, and that hes been portrayed as a victim of violence.
Hes talked some about the past including his days at New Yorks prestigious Stuyvesant High School but not at all about the future.
Hes had quite a bit or surgery and has quite a bit more to go, said Namias, who noted that hes getting a host of benefits now that he wasnt getting before. Of course, I dont think hed have traded this awful event for the benefits ... Hes just happy with where hes at and whats going on for him is OK.
Ive never used this word to describe someone before, Namias said, but hes charming. He really is.
Social workers and psychotherapists visit and chat. Poppo goes to physical therapy, and takes all medications by mouth.
He asks for orange juice and Italian food, and sports on television.
Namias said that Poppo asked if the doctor planned to watch the NBA Finals Tuesday night, and sent him off to the news conference with a hearty: Go, Heat!
Poppo also knows that a long-estranged brother in California has spoken to his doctors and is helping manage his care, Namias said.
Poppo has two brothers and a sister who lost contact with him 30 years ago. He also has a daughter in New Jersey who was 2 when she last saw him, and has said she thought he was dead.
Poppo often slept in the parking garage of Jungle Island, the Watson Island tourist attraction, where outreach workers for the homeless and police offered help as recently as April. He refused.
The doctors wouldnt speculate about how long Poppo might remain in the hospital or where hell go when he leaves.
The guy has got to be a survivor, living on Watson Island all these years, Namias said. I think hes become pragmatic about life ... Right now theres nice people around him and meals and theres hope. Miami Herald staff writers Luisa Yanez and David Ovalle contributed to this report.