Seven months since his face was eaten in a horrific attack as he slept along a Florida causeway, Ronald Poppo is entirely blind, barely talking and refusing further surgery because ‘it’s going to hurt’.
The victim of the infamous Miami Cannibal, Rudy Eugene, is now living at Jackson Memorial Perdue Medical Center, a sprawling 163-bed rehabilitation facility in South Miami-Dade.
Poppo, 65, has not authorized physicians to talk publicly about his medical condition since a press conference in June, but long-lost relatives have now spoken out to reveal his incremental progress.
Small steps: Ronald Poppo is pictured in June after 80 per cent of his face was eaten off in a horrific attack
He underwent intensive medical treatment at Jackson Memorial Hospital after the May 26 attack, in which 80 per cent of his face was eaten by Eugene as he was under the influence of drugs.
Doctors removed one eyeball and had hoped to save another, yet they were unable to, his family members told the Miami Herald.
His sister said that when she talks to him, he does not mention the attack or how he passes his time, yet he does like the center and the people who look after him.
‘He says they take him outside and walk him around the place,’ Antoinette Poppo said. ‘He’s glad to be there.
Grisly attack: Ronald Poppo, 65, is pictured left before he was attacked by 31-year-old Rudy Eugene, right, as he slept on a Florida causeway in May. Poppo is now blind and has refused further operations
‘He doesn’t really talk much at all. He says, “Take care of yourself.” It’s so sad he can’t see, and has to depend on other people.’
She added that he said that his face has not yet healed but that he does not want anymore surgery as ‘it’s going to hurt’.
As his gruesome plight hit headlines across the world, family members started to come out of the woodwork, shocked to discover that Poppo, who had been homeless, was alive.
But relatives said that, while Poppo knows that his brothers are aware of the attack and his treatment, he has not asked to call them or asked them, or his sister, to visit him.
Following the grisly attack, it emerged that he had an adult daughter, Janice Poppo DiBello, living in New Jersey, yet the Poppos never knew she existed.
Old life: Poppo was once a top student at a New York school before he vanished and lived on the streets
Following the discovery, Janice contacted her aunt and uncles, yet she has not tried to get in touch with her father and he has not tried to speak with her, Antoinette Poppo said.
She added that her brother does not even believe he has any children.
Yet it is not all sadness for Poppo, who is being well cared for at Perdue, where well-wishers have visited the patients this Christmas and taken gifts.
‘An anonymous “angel” bought sweatpants, socks and a hat for every resident,’ Jennifer Mooney Piedra, Jackson senior media specialist, told the Herald.
It is an event many never expected Poppo to experience, after the bloody attack in May.
Emergency callers reported seeing a naked man swinging from a light pole on Miami’s MacArthur Causeway a few minutes before the attack.
Surveillance video from a nearby building shows Eugene stripping Poppo and pummeling him before appearing to lie on top of him. He then chewed lumps of flesh from his victim’s face.
In extended video footage of the attack, people can be seen cycling and driving past without stopping to help.
After arriving on the scene, officer Jose Rivera shouted at Eugene to stop but he simply got up and growled and continued eating at the man’s face. The police officer shot and killed him.
Initial tests revealed that Eugene had a number of undigested pills in his stomach, according to the Miami Herald. Marijuana was also in Eugene’s system at the time of the attack.
After the attack, a photo released by the hospital showed the upper two-thirds of Poppo’s face covered in scabs, missing his nose and with both eye sockets covered.
His grey beard was trimmed, leaving a moustache over his upper lip.
Doctors at the hospital said the homeless man also has holes in his chest that may be from bullets fired by the police officer who killed his attacker.
Poppo also suffered a brain injury during the attack, like that suffered by a car crash victim, the Herald reported.