After injury, man finds purpose in fatherhood
June 17, 2017 at 9:12 p.m.
Updated June 18, 2017 at 6 a.m.
There are two big moments in Miguel Flores' life: the morning when nearly half his body was burned and the day he became a father.
Those two days, though one was filled with pain and uncertainty and the other with joy, both held an underlying message for Flores: he was put on this Earth for a reason.
"I've always wanted to be a father. I mean, I'm kind of a big kid myself," Flores chuckled. "But being a father has been the best part of my life."
A Port Lavaca native, Flores was living in Victoria in 2000 when the first big moment happened. Flores smelled thick smoke at his neighbor's apartment and woke up the three male tenants at the residence. In an effort to alleviate the situation, Flores ran out of the residence with the source of the smoke - a coffee can of wax that had been on a hot stove - which spilled and caused third-degree burns to his body. Flores was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where he spent a year and a half recovering from his burns, which covered 45 percent of his body. Flores went through multiple surgeries, including skin transplants and trachea surgery.
"That night changed my life and made me appreciate life," Flores, 41, said.
But it was 14 years ago when Flores' lifelong dream came true. He became a father to a girl, Morgan Flores, whom he has raised on his own. He is also the father of Mason Flores, 4, whom Flores sees a few times a week. Being a single father hasn't been easy, Flores said, but it has changed his world for the better.
"The happiest moment of my life was when Morgan wanted to live with me," Flores said. "My kids make me feel like I was put here for a reason: to be the best father I can possibly be for them."
Flores, who was unemployed for several months, said he does the best he can to create happy memories for his children. He takes them to sporting events when he can, volunteers at children's clinics and organizes play dates with other children. He enjoys playing Super Mario Bros. with Mason and attending Morgan's track meets. One of Morgan's favorite moments was when her father hosted a tea party for her and her friends when she was 7. She also loves watching Adam Sandler comedies with Flores.
"He's like my best friend. We're very close," Morgan said.
Flores' aunt, Connie Ozuna, of Port Lavaca, said her nephew not only tries to do right by his children but also by anyone who crosses his path. Flores tries to do one good deed a day, such as cutting the lawn for a church. Ozuna said he also helps other single parents.
"His kids are his world. Any extra time he has, he spends with them," Ozuna said. "He's a good guy and a go-to person for anything. If someone is in need, he's there."
Though fatherhood has been a blessing, Flores said, the $980,000 in medical bills from his burns still stands. His friend, Sheryl Mitchell, created a GoFundMe account to help Flores with his medical expenses.
"Miguel is such a happy person and always has a smile on his face no matter what," Mitchell said.
With a new job on the horizon, Flores said he stays positive through his children.
"I don't consider myself a hero for the night of the fire, but I try to be a hero to my kids," Flores said.