When Reggie, a former Marine, had grown intolerably disgusted with the “terrible person” he’d become, he felt that taking his life by fire was his only escape.
“This is what I thought would be the best thing for me — to leave this earth,” the 58-year-old said in a documentary produced by Sasha Leahovcenco.
After years of struggling with drugs, two failed marriages and unemployment, the despairing veteran who had been honorably discharged was tired of it all. About 20 years ago, he doused himself in gasoline, grabbed a lighter and set himself ablaze.
But as he watched his skin melt away and his head swell, Reggie felt he wasn’t yet ready to give up.
He futilely rolled on the ground trying to put out the flames, and eventually woke up in a local clinic where he heard doctors sharing their grim prognoses.
But Reggie heard a voice murmur, “Reggie is going to make it,” and he clung hardest to that one bolstering statement before falling into a three-month coma.
“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me,” Reggie, who now panhandles in Sacramento, California, and lives with nephew, said in the video. “I’m a stronger man now.”
After enduring multitudes of surgeries and skin grafts, Reggie defied doctors again and began walking on his own after two weeks.
Though Reggie is physically disabled and his speech is slurred, he shies away from dwelling on his pain and injuries. Instead, he uses his moment in front of the camera to urge viewers to learn from his experience and relish the time they have.
“Enjoy your life,” he said. “Try to get everything you can out of life right now because you never know when your day is going to come.”
Watch Reggie’s story in the video above.