TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two dozen of Sarasota’s health care heroes will be part of sports history in two weeks. They’ll be in the stands as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers become the first team ever to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. With only 20 percent of fans allowed inside Raymond James because of COVID-19, this opportunity is truly once in a lifetime.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 5 Waldemere Tower has been one of the busiest COVID-19 units at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Once the staff knew they would be getting the coronavirus vaccine, they set a plan in motion to convince the NFL that they should be in the stands for Super Bowl LV.
Their wish was granted last Thursday. The 24-person team was the first of 7,500 health care workers across the nation surprised with a personal invite from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to watch the Super Bowl at Raymond James.
“We have cried together, we have jumped up and down together,” said RN Rebecca Izquierdo, who helped create the video that got them invited to attend the Super Bowl.
The Bucs punching their ticket to the championship game on Sunday, for the first time in 19 years, took the surprise to a whole new level.
“The fairytale just keeps getting better,” said Izquierdo.
“The cherry on top of the sundae on top of the sundae,” said Steven Smith, who’s also an RN at 5 Waldemere.
The opportunity means the world to the Sarasota health care workers who’ve pushed through an exceptionally grueling year.
“This team has been nothing but phenomenal when it came to being flexible and adaptable and their courage and resilience throughout this entire pandemic,” RN Sherry Fajura said.
It’s a gift that extends beyond sitting in the stand watching Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Each of the health care heroes will play a role in advancing the mission to get everyone in the United States vaccinated and help end the pandemic so life can go back to normal.
“We are going to be there representing that vaccine and the hope that this vaccine brings to this nation, to the world,” said Izquierdo.
All of the 7,500 health care workers invited to Super Bowl LV have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.