Nearly a year after his face was horribly maimed in a vicious attack on the MacArthur Causeway, Ronald Poppo spoke publicly for the first time in a video released by Jackson Memorial Hospital Tuesday.
Wearing a Miami Heat hat and sitting on a hospital bed, Poppo is seen strumming a guitar before giving thanks to his doctors and the community.
"Thanks for considering, helping out, people in my predicament need to be helped out and I'm sure there's other people also that have the same type of predicament," Poppo said in the brief video. "I thank the outpouring of people in the community, I will always be grateful for them."
Miami Face-Mauling Victim Recalls Attack
The video was released during a news conference at Jackson Medical Center, where the 66-year-old continues to recover from the injuries he suffered in the May 26, 2012 attack.
New photos from Poppo's birthday celebration at the hospital were also released.
Poppo remains completely blind following the attack and has undergone four surgeries since the attack but remains in good spirits, his doctors said.
"He's had a long year but he's managed to cope quite well with what's happened to him," Dr. Wrood Kassira said. "I would say he's content with where he is right now."
Kassira, one of Jackson's plastic surgeons, said Poppo had skin grafting surgery and all his wounds have closed.
"He had extensive trauma to his face, it was bad," Kassira said.
Poppo has been told of his options for more surgeries or prosthetics for his eyes and nose, but he hasn't been interested in them. He has undergone four surgeries and is unwilling to have further reconstruction.
"There's still work that can be done, but he's more than happy with how he is now, he's quite grateful," Kassira said.
Poppo has gained more than 50 pounds since he was brought to Ryder Trauma Center, and continues to work with an occupational therapist who has taught him how to dress himself, feed himself, shower and shave.
Doctors gave Poppo a guitar to help with his therapy, and he practices with it every day. He played guitar 40 years ago when he was in a band and is trying to pick up chords but not being able to see makes it tough, they said.
The incident unfolded when a naked, 31-year-old Rudy Eugene attacked Poppo and stripped him of his clothes on the causeway last May, police said.
Only Marijuana Found in Face Chewer's System: Medical Examiner
An officer eventually shot and killed Eugene after he refused to stop the attack, police said. By that point Eugene had gnawed away more than half of Poppo's face, gauged out his left eye, and severely damaged his right one.
Authorities had initially speculated that bath salts may have been the cause of the attack, but the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner said tests showed only marijuana in Eugene's system.
Doctors, meanwhile, say Poppo is adjusting to his new life.
"I think he wants the world to know he's not traumatized by this," Dr. Urmen Desai said. "He's a simple guy and he's happy and grateful for being alive after such an incident."