LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Local frontline health care workers and first responders are being honored all week during the 47th annual Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo.

As the nation still grapples with the global COVID-19 pandemic, Sun ‘n Fun is putting the spotlight on health care heroes. One, in particular, is going from the frontlines to the skies.

“I’ve been a nurse for 10 years,” Regina Wilkins said.

Wilkins is a nurse at Lakeland Regional Health. She opened the medical intensive care unit at LRH in 2018.

“When we opened the medical ICU, we didn’t necessarily plan for a pandemic,” Wilkins said.

However, two years after the opening, she’d find herself managing the ICU unit during a global pandemic.

“There were days that I worked 12, 13, 14 hours and I was coming in just in time to put my kids to bed,” she explained.

What Wilkins and her team saw on a daily basis was unprecedented.

“The number and how quickly they would decompensate and how quickly we moved from somebody sitting up and talking to you to someone fully prone and sedated was sometimes very overwhelming for the team,” she said.

However, sticking together as a team is what gets them through daily.

“You’re really constantly looking out for each other,” she said. “Watching that alarm while your nurse buddy is in another patient’s room, just making sure you can pop in when you can.”

It turns out, Wilkins’ team looked out for her so much, they nominated her to fly with the Blue Angels due to her hard work and dedication.

“I was like, ‘it’s a once in a life time shot, of course I’d like to do it,'” she said.

Wilkins will ride with the Blue Angels on Wednesday.

“It feels amazing,” she said. “You sometimes feel like your work is a thankless profession, so its nice for the community to continue to reach out and support us for Sun ‘n Fun to do this for all of the team.”

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