“It was very shocking and overwhelming and now I can’t even wait. I’m a huge Gronkowski fan.”

Gina Teixeira, RN, who works on the front lines in the Emergency Department at Southern, is one of four health care workers from New Hampshire who was chosen by the Patriots to fly to the Super Bowl in an all-expense-paid trip.

She was working when she was pulled into a virtual meeting with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. That’s when Teixeira found out she was nominated and would be among 75 other health care workers from around New England attending Super Bowl LV.

“My leadership nominated me. They said I was chosen because of the positive attitude I bring to work every day, that when there are problems I have a solution, and I’m just a team player. That’s how I like to work. I love my work team,” Teixeira explains.

For the past 11 months, she has been on the front lines, helping set up tents when a surge was expected, helping divide the Emergency Department with plastic walls to keep patients and staff protected from infection, working long hours, and caring for some of the sickest COVID-19 patients.

“Professionally the pandemic has been scary for myself and my team in the ED. Especially at first when we didn’t know what to expect and didn’t have the PPE we knew that we needed,” she says. “The hardest part for me has been to watch family members drop off their loved ones not knowing if or when they will see them again. I make sure to always keep in touch with family to ease their fears. Through it all, I have wanted to support my co-workers and they do the same for me.”

Being a nurse during the pandemic has also been extremely hard on Teixeira’s personal life. Her daughter, Alexandria, is quadriplegic from a car accident in 2014. She is now 27 and has a daughter of her own that is seven. “I had to tell them I couldn’t come over and care for her for fear I may bring COVID-19 home to them. If Alexandria contracted COVID-19, I knew it would be deadly for her as she has low lung capacity. They were devastated and it has been a long road. My son, Devin, is 16 and had been living with me, but I sent him to his father’s so he wouldn’t be exposed by me so he could be there for his sister and niece in my place. He stood up to the challenge and took great care of them. It was the first time since I was 17 that I had no children around me, and it was not easy,” she explains.

Teixeira is now fully vaccinated and looks forward to being able to see her children again. But she’s also looking forward to this trip and a nice break from work. “I’m going to try to get an autograph from my favorite player, Gronk,” she says.

Not only is she looking forward to the game, she’s also looking forward to meeting nurses from all over the country to hear their perspective. “I feel like I have to represent all of my team that works so hard, just as much as I do. I wish I could take them all with me.”

Teixeira will get to stay at Gillette Stadium Saturday night and board the Patriots private jet Sunday morning to head to the big game.