Orlando hospital employee uses hidden talent to honor health care workers

Portraits showcase bravery, resilience

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nelson Cárdenas is a prep cook by day at Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips, and when he’s not at the hospital, he’s working on his other passion: art.

He started to unveil his talent 20 years ago.

His most recent artwork can be seen just outside the emergency room at the hospital he’s been working for the past six years.

“I never thought that I would be here like that,” Tina Grace, an employee with the environmental services department said. Grace is featured in one of six 4X4 portraits created by Cárdenas. “I didn’t know that it was going to kick off like this so, I feel really honored.”

Grace is being honored among nurses, a doctor, someone who transports patients, and a food and nutrition employee.

“Being in this field is not easy, you know, and cleaning the hospital so that everyone can stay healthy, is hard, it’s hard,” she said.

To create this series of portraits, Cárdenas used a technique called pyrography, which is the art of burning wood. He used oil paint to design each face onto plywood.

"To actually have the privilege of having my work here, I can't even describe it in words," Cárdenas said about his prideful moment.

He said it’s his way of telling their stories of bravery and resilience.

“I’m surrounded by heroes every day. Some of them are my coworkers,” the Colombia native said. “I see them every day, I talk to them and it’s about them. I’m just the vessel using my creative outlet to tell the story.”

A talent the president of Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips said is a reflection of the work done by his team day in and day out.

"It's really representative of what we've gone through over the last couple of months. It really brought back a moment of reflection," Thibaut Van Marcke, president of the hospital said. "You take a look at the artwork and you really feel like you could look into people's eyes and people's souls."

The display is temporarily set up on a temporary wooden fence that is covering ventilation units. For Grace, it’s an honor she never thought to one day be a part of.

“I thought about my kids. I thought about everything that I work so hard for,” she said. “You just think this is a job you know, you come in to do what you gotta do but we’re really saving lives and risking our own life every day.”

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