By Travis Armbruster
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
On a brisk August morning, while most people are still asleep, Mordecai Salvino scuffles through the cluttered trunk of his car, searching diligently for his ear buds.
“I can’t run without ’em,” says the husky, 27-year-old. “It’s 6 o’ clock and I need something to pump me up to get through the workout.”
He dives into the junky trunk, leaving nothing but his knee-high Nike compression socks exposed to the Padonia Village apartment complex. A couple minutes pass.
“Found them!” he shouts, dangling his ear buds in the air. “Wouldn’t be the first time I beat the odds.”
Only 9 percent of nurses in the United States are male and less than 8 percent of nurses are Hispanic, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Mordecai Salvino happens to be both.
For the past five years, the Dulaney High School and Towson University graduate has been working at Medstar Union Memorial Hospital in the Emergency Room department.
Diversity among nursing staffs tend to be more prominent in city hospitals, like the one in Baltimore where Salvino works, than suburban institutions and many of Salvino’s coworkers are ethnic minorities.
In his case, it’s so his race and occupation don’t stand out to him. It’s more unique being a male nurse, but it doesn’t faze him.
“People just assume every nurse is a woman,” said Salvino’s friend and Towson nursing student, Nick Keepers. “Nurses make good money and it’s a really fulfilling job. Who ever said men can’t be nurses?”
It’s a job that allows him to help other people, obviously, but has also enabled him to help his mother and pursue his other dreams—outside the hospital.
“Mordi loves others really well,” says Salvino’s best friend, Mark Diglio. “Kinda cliché, but I don’t know many people who would actually follow through on sacrificing their time, money, and energy for others the way that he does.”
In this morning, Salvino runs past his old high school. He runs past his best friend’s house. He runs past his childhood home, remembering how his mother and he and his brother struggled in the apartment. They still live together. Working off of a nurse’s salary, Salvino and his brother decided to buy a house for their mother in Hereford, in northern Baltimore County, a couple years ago.
Salvino’s mom, Ericka Salvino, was born and raised in Baltimore. Her parents were immigrants from El Salvador. She never had much economic opportunity, living in the city without a college degree, but she was able to move into the suburbs and raise two boys by herself after divorcing her husband a couple decades ago.
Just like his mother, Salvino is all about others. Over the past few years, he has been volunteering at Younglife’s Baltimore County ministry, pouring into a number of Towson University student’s lives as a mentor.
“We spend around 10 hours a week at the university,” Diglio says, who also volunteers with Salvino. “Hanging out, leading bible studies, and simply being there for students.”
A couple miles in, as sweat drips down his face, Salvino is faced with an obstacle; a hill steeper than a flight of stairs and longer than a football field. “I call it the Hill de Muerte,” Salvino says. “That’s Spanish for the Hill of Death.”
The perspiration drenches through his shirt as he darts up the hill as fast as he can, panting. Once he gets to the top, he throws his hands up in the air like Rocky Balboa. As one challenge is overcome, he says later, life finds a way to throw another—or he puts up a new challenge for himself.
Salvino’s new goal is to take up professional boxing. At 5 foot 6 and 290 pounds, Salvino’s first step is to drop 40 pounds before he climbs into the ring—thus all the early training runs.
“I ran the marathon in the city years ago at 250 pounds,” Salvino says. “I feel like I’ll be able to achieve my peak performance at that weight.” At the halfway point, Salvino’s iPhone notifies him to turn around. It’s all downhill from here.
“I’ve never thought of Mordi as being a professional boxer,” says fellow nurse, Caroline McWithy. “But if he trains like he works here in the hospital, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up doing pretty good.”
There are prices to pay for the success Salvino strives for. Nurses tend to work 12-hour shifts, many times through the night. Training for boxing might as well be a second job. Meanwhile, he also wants to find a girlfriend, raise a family, and travel the world, but there’s only 24 hours in a day. Recently, Salvino decided to step down from working within the Christian ministry at Towson University to pursue his boxing dream.
“The Lord is calling me to take on boxing,” Salvino says. “There’s a chance this doesn’t work out, but I’m not leaning on my own understanding. My value is in Christ alone and I believe that he wants me to be bold in this season.”
The birds finally start to chirp and traffic begins to pile up in Cockeysville as Salvino finishes his five-mile run. He blasts pop country music outside of his old apartment while he stretches his hamstrings out like a rubber band.
“Things are working out, no pun intended,” Salvino says. “Never thought I’d be so fortunate.”
Even with a schedule as hectic and demanding as his, Salvino’s life doesn’t revolve around him – it remains oriented around others.
“Gotta go,” Salvino said. “Gonna help my boy, Diglio, move back into his momma’s crib.”