“What a trip, what a day!” Gina Teixeira, RN, from the Emergency Department at Southern, says after the trip of a lifetime to Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay, Florida.
She was one of four health care workers from New Hampshire who were chosen by the Patriots to fly to the Super Bowl in an all-expense-paid trip. In total, there were 76 fully vaccinated health care workers from around New England who were treated to the trip.
“Robert Kraft and The Patriots really gave us the red-carpet treatment, we felt like celebrities. It was amazing and I am so grateful,” Teixeira says.
At 7 am on Super Bowl Sunday, Teixeira and her fellow health care workers took to the field at Gillette Stadium where they met members of the Patriots and several cheerleaders. They even had professional photos taken.
“We then went to the TSA check-in that was set up at Gillette. We got on our assigned buses and had a police escort to Logan Airport,” Teixeira explains. “The bus driver said he’s been doing this for years and that the Patriots gave us the same treatment the players get when they go to an away game.”
After arriving at Logan, the 76 health care workers boarded the Patriots’ plane. “Looking up at the plane with the trophies on the wing, all the media in the hanger, it was like ‘What is happening?’ It was crazy!” she says.
The plane is decked out with all blue leather seats with the Patriots logo on the headrest. “The plane was probably the highlight of the whole time and the game. It’s just crazy to say I’ve been on that plane. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Teixeira says.
Throughout the entire trip everyone was social distanced. On the bus, it was only one person per row, with an empty seat in front of each person. On the plane, it was one person in each section.
Breakfast was served on the way to the game and dinner was served on the way back. Teixeira says it was delicious and there were several options available.
After landing in Tampa, Robert Kraft was waiting for them on the tarmac, dressed in all black with his signature sneakers. “We got off the plane one at a time and each got a chance to stand next to him and meet him and he gave us a Super Bowl LV pin and a mask. He was so kind. He said he knew everyone is tired, the pandemic is exhausting, plus politics, and he just wanted to give health care workers a day to just have fun. And he really did!” Teixeira says.
They boarded another set of buses accompanied by a motorcade that included police and Robert Kraft’s SUV. They rode like VIPs with lights and sirens blazing all the way to Raymond James Stadium. “It was incredible, it was a total dream!” says Teixeira. “And it was even crazier when we got to the stadium.”
When they arrived, Teixeira says they all received game day passes and a $100 gift card to be used in the venue. She then went to a Miley Cyrus concert that was sponsored by Tik Tok.
“In that area, there was a big structure that said, ‘Welcome Health Care Superheroes,’ and as we were walking through the staff working were clapping and thanking us. It was so weird. It was so humbling. I think every single nurse or health care worker I was with was in aww and was so honored to be there,” she says.
Teixeira made friends with Jenna Osborn, an ICU nurse at Catholic Medical Center. They were together all day and were seated together for the game. “We ended up being in the Buccaneers end zone, opposite the Pirate Ship and right next to CBS Sports. It was just crazy the seats we had, they were amazing seats and we were the only people in our row. We had so much fun, there was so much dancing. They also had a nice tribute at the beginning of the game to health care workers,” she recounts.
Teixeira, who is a huge Gronkowski fan, sported his new jersey at the game. “The game was amazing, it was like watching the Patriots play because it was Antonio Brown, Gronk, and Brady,” she gushes.
After watching the Buccaneers celebrate their win, it was back to the bus. They landed in Providence, Rhode Island and again had a police escort this time all the way back to Gillette Stadium. They arrived at Gillette at 4 am and the health care workers stayed there for the night.
“It was such an honor to represent my team there, it really was. I felt that energy from all the other health care workers who were there. We all felt like we had a big job to represent our hospitals. The New England Patriots did a great job helping us represent all the parts that take place in the hospital setting. They didn’t have just nurses or just doctors. It was all levels,” Teixeira adds.
“I cried some happy tears and had a lot of goosebumps throughout the day. It was a rough year both at work and at home. I am so grateful to be fully vaccinated and for this opportunity,” Teixeira explains.
Teixeira’s daughter, Alexandria, is quadriplegic from a car accident in 2014. She is now 27 and has a daughter of her own that is seven. Teixeira, who normally cares for them both, has had to stay away over fear of bringing COVID-19 into her daughter’s home. Her 16-year-old son, Devin, stepped up to care for his sister, meaning his mom couldn’t see him either. But now she is vaccinated and able to see her family.
“I’m so relieved to see my son, daughter, and granddaughter. They are so relieved. I wear my mask, I bring my own pillow, I Lysol where I sleep in the bed. I wash my hands. I’m super, super vigilante still, but not fearful. It’s just nice to be able to go there and see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We both cried, me and my daughter. It has been a rough year,” she says.
Teixeira hopes her story will show the general public not to be afraid to get vaccinated. “It’s going to get better, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”