Only have a minute? Listen instead
EDINBURG — Angel Flores couldn’t stand still. He walked around his home full of energy, showing off his musical talent by jumping from instrument to instrument.
The 8-year-old smiled as he played snippets of music for his audience, who looked at him tenderly.
His mother, Fabiola Flores Raya, 47, stood by her son watching him with amusement as he continued serenading his guests.
Their joy is in spite of tragic circumstances that Angel doesn’t even recall, but that have weighed heavily on his mother.
When Angel was just 11 months old, he was in a car crash that would change the course of his life forever.
It all started when Fabiola moved to Edinburg in hopes of finding better work to provide for her family. During that time she also assisted a friend of hers whose son was being treated for cancer.
She remembered receiving a call from her friend asking if she would like to accompany her to Harlingen.
Although Fabiola had initially told her no, she later agreed to join her friend, who Fabiola said was sleep-deprived due to spending the majority of her time in the hospital with her son.
When she offered to take the wheel her friend reassured her that she was okay to drive, leaving Fabiola sitting in the back with Angel in a car seat that didn’t belong to him.
Fabiola’s eyes began to water Wednesday morning as she thought back on that moment.
“When we were on our way back, tiredness overcame her because she had spent many days in the hospital with her son, so she fell asleep while driving and lost control of the vehicle,” Fabiola said in Spanish with a trembling voice.
When the vehicle began to spin she recalled immediately reaching for Angel and holding him in her arms in an attempt to protect him.
“Since I did not have my seat belt on as the car flipped I went through a window. I was stuck with half my body inside the vehicle and the other half outside, with Angel in my arms,” Fabiola said with tears in her eyes. “During that crash, the one who suffered the most was Angel because his legs were damaged.”
Through the daze, she recalled a woman providing her son with emergency care and reassuring Fabiola that Angel would be OK.
He was transferred to a facility in San Antonio to receive the necessary care, due to the extremity of his injuries.
Fabiola looked up at the ceiling as she attempted to hold back tears when explaining how she couldn’t go with Angel due to being hospitalized for her own injuries.
“He went alone,” Fabiola said with a broken tone.
Although doctors attempted to save both legs, the crash had caused the arteries in his right leg to burst while his left leg was severely wounded and could not be recovered.
His left leg was amputated two days before his birthday just above his ankle, while his right leg was reconstructed.
During the reconstruction, doctors had to replace one of the tendons with plates because of the various fractures in his leg.
Since that day, Angel and his family have consistently traveled up to San Antonio for his treatment.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors noticed a deformity in Angel’s right ankle; however, they were unable to operate due to the lockdown and other restrictions.
Once the pandemic had waned, doctors were able to operate in 2022 when they initially attempted to fix the deformation with a plate and screws. But the procedure was unsuccessful.
In March, Angel once again underwent surgery in which doctors replaced the plate and screws with a metal brace and pins.
During the procedure, they reconstructed his right leg and shaved off some of the bone in the left leg that has continued to grow as Angel got older. Fabiola said if it hadn’t been addressed, the bone could have eventually grown through his skin due to how sharp it was forming.
After the operation, he was bedridden until June when he was finally able to begin walking again using a prosthetic.
Throughout that time Angel has attended physical therapy twice a week, making it difficult for Fabiola as the sole breadwinner in the family to attend work. As of right now, she works cleaning a house to make ends meet.
Angel’s therapies continue to weigh heavy on Fabiola’s heart.
“I don’t like those times because his legs are in a lot of pain,” Fabiola said. “Even though one of his legs has an amputation, the remainder of the leg had a lot of fractures causing him a lot of pain.”
After carrying the metal brace around his right leg for nine months, Angel went into surgery on Friday to remove the brace and begin the recovery process.
It was a moment Angel had been looking forward to.
“He doesn’t cry but he is very frustrated,” Fabiola said as tears pooled around her eyes. “He has asked me why God has given him so much pain.”
Because of the physical limitations he faces, Angel often gets angry for not being able to keep up with the kids at school during a race or even kick a soccer ball properly.
Like all kids, Angel wants to win each game, he wants to run without a prosthetic weighing him down or having to be careful with a brace in his leg.
“Suffer,” Angel said as he described his experience living with a brace on his leg. “First of all my leg sometimes itches where the things are and sometimes it itches where I can’t touch it.”
Despite his hardships, Angel continues to be like all little kids — rambunctious and full of life.
He spends his time learning to play the piano and guitar as well as playing his favorite game, “Roblox.”
“It’s a game where you can do anything,” Angel said with a smile.
Although he enjoys video games, Angel is excited to finally be able to once again participate in outdoor activities.
He explained that once the brace is removed the first thing he wants to do is “use that dang bike,” Angel said with a laugh.
Fabiola hoped the removal of the metal brace would not only have a positive impact on Angel but also on his older brother, Victor.
Victor, 13, was recently diagnosed with depression and anxiety, which Fabiola believes is tied to his brother’s condition.
She explained that Victor has often missed out on activities such as attending a friend’s birthday party because Angel could not go out.
As the Christmas time approaches, Fabiola explained what she most needs this year is a good mechanic who can help fix her vehicle that often overheats. The issues with her vehicle have made it difficult for her to take Angel to his appointments.
Angel, however, hopes to get a scooter for Christmas that he can use at his local park as well as video games he can play with his brother.
To help, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331 and inquire about this family and the Spirit of Christmas campaign. The Monitor has partnered with the United Way of South Texas to garner support for Rio Grande Valley families in need of monetary donations, or other items and gifts specified in this story.