Ten days after Rene Betancourt was nearly beaten to death in downtown Miami by attackers that remain at large, he was released from Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Nursing an ear-to-ear scar across the top of his head, Betancourt was wheeled out of the hospital Tuesday morning accompanied by his parents, Rene and Rosie Betancourt, and other family members.
“I’m a lucky guy,” he told reporters from his wheelchair. “I’m in pain but I just want to go home. I have had a lot of support from my family and I needed it. I am grateful.”
Neurosurgeons had to perform emergency surgery on the 22-year-old to remove a blood clot the morning after the attack. Skull fractures too numerous to keep track have been treated with a titanium plate to help protect his brain. The bruises on his face and body are slowly healing.
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Doctors said the prognosis is good: They have told the family Betancourt should recover fully from the savage beating.
"Rene has made great strides,” said Ricardo Komotar, his lead neurosurgeon.
Betancourt was found by his parents the morning after the attack inside his car parked near Jackson Memorial Hospital. He had tried to reach medical help on his own. He was slumped in the driver’s seat, beaten so badly he was barely recognizable, his parents said.
Now, the Betancourts wait for Miami police to find their son’s attackers. Was it robbery? Betancourt was carrying about $20 cash and no valuables
Asked if he recalls what happened to him, he told reporters: “It’s a blank.”
Investigators are working with clues surrounding the incident. Betancourt had gone downtown at around 11 p.m. on July 6 to find a popular skateboarding group that frequents the area. He parked at a city lot near Bayside Marketplace. In the next two hours, he would be attacked by up to three people, Miami police said.
He made five distress calls at around 2 a.m., neither which were to police. His younger sister and his best friend didn’t answer his calls, so Betancourt took charge, driving himself from downtown to the hospital in the Civic Center.
Doctors say they’ll have to wait and see how the brain trauma will manifest itself. Betancourt said severe headaches come and go. His short term memory is still spotty. Doctors will re-examine him by the end of the month to see if he needs additional surgery for the fractures in his cheekbone and eye area.
Slivers of hope have graced the Betancourt family since the attack. Jackson created a fund for the victim, since he doesn’t have health insurance. Strangers have contributed and sent messages to the family expressing their well wishes.
And the Miami Longboard Crew, a skateboarding group, hosted a scavenger race and turned it into a fundraiser for Betancourt.
On Tuesday, upon getting home, he ate a home cooked meal and went to sleep in his own bed for the first time since the attack. Betancourt’s mother, who stayed by her son’s side, said she’s amazed by her son’s positive attitude.
“He doesn’t have hard feelings,” Rosie Betancourt said.
Miami Herald newspartner CBS4 contributed to this report.