TAMPA, Fla. – Thousands of medical professionals who received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were invited to enter a lottery to get a free ticket to the Super Bowl in Tampa.
The NFL wants to honor those who have been on the front lines of the pandemic.
“Some of the highs are seeing patients walking out of here, doing better and improving. Going home to their families and loved ones. The lows are weeks that we lose six to seven patients in a week from the unknowns of COVID,” Alexandra Patsalos said.
Patsalos is a Pulmonary ICU nurse practitioner contracted to work in COVID-19 units at hospitals like AdventHealth in Tampa.
“The hardest thing for me with COVID is the family members. It’s so difficult to reach out to them and tell them ‘we couldn’t save your family member.’”
Patsalos said with limited to no visitation at the hospital, most of the time, she’s all a patient has during the fight against the virus.
“Sometimes it’s just sitting there and holding their hand and calling their family to reassure them their loved ones are doing fine,” Patsalos said. “Being in a room with a COVID patient struggling to breathe or requiring non-invasive ventilation, it’s so hard to watch them cry and ask for help and there’s nothing more we can do.”
She said working in the COVID unit has been mentally and emotionally difficult, but recently she received some good news.
“I got the email that says congratulations, you got selected by the NFL to go to the Super Bowl,” Patsalos said. “I jumped up from the dinner table and screamed. I was just so excited. I never thought it’d be something I could do. I was so grateful to have the opportunity.”
Patsalos is a mother of three.
“My kids are jealous but very excited,” Patsalos said.
She’s also a huge Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, living in Tampa for 25 years. She said sitting in the stands at the Super Bowl will help take her mind off the everyday stresses of being on the front lines of a pandemic.
“It’s definitely going to be something to remember. Working side-by-side with these people in these COVID units and now getting to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with them it’s going to be great, we’re so grateful to the NFL and hospitals involved. I think it’s a great way for them to show their appreciation,” Patsalos said.
Patsalos said she will have to go in to work on Super Bowl Sunday. She works the morning shift but said she won’t be too tired to enjoy the Super Bowl.
The Bucs vs. Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl will air on WKMG-TV at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay.