TAMPA, Fla. — Health care workers have been on the front lines working extra hours, sacrificing so much to save lives and fight COVID-19.
Sometimes, they are even the only ones there to hold hands or phones as patients draw their last breath.
Among the 22,000 fans allowed at Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl Sunday will be 7,500 health care workers who were given free tickets as a small way of saying thank you.
Patricia Falcon and Katrina Anderson are both speech language pathologists with AdventHealth Tampa. When they submitted a request for the tickets, neither of them thought they would get to go.
But, a surprise chance to relax, even for just a night, couldn't have come at a better time.
They described what the past year has been like for them.
Falcon says when the pandemic outbreak began she knew health care workers would have to balance their safety with being there for their patients.
"It was just very intimidating, we didn't know what we needed to be safe and careful, but yet we knew our patients needed us. At the same time our patients were scared because their families weren't with them and we were sort of a surrogate family," Falcon said.
Anderson says making sure patients were able to talk to their families through it all was a priority.
"We were having patients as soon as their sessions were over, we were calling up their family like, 'here's the phone, talk to your family' and then leaving, setting people up so they can talk to their family because they don't have that communication," Anderson said.
Falcon says health care workers were also there for each other through the hard times.
"It did involve a lot of having to cover each other, cover shifts, worrying about each other's health, and at the same time we all have families too that were going through this," Falcon said.
"I know many of us didn't see our families for weeks or a couple of months," Anderson said.
Now, after a tough year, with no end in sight, getting to go to Super Bowl LV is a welcome break from the chaos.
"I feel like we've been through this super stressful time in our lives and now we get to go and celebrate together as a team and have fun and just get to relax," Falcon said.
"It doesn't get any better. It really doesn't. We feel very fortunate. I have like goosebumps right now. It's insane. We're so blessed to have the opportunity. Go Bucs!"
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