Vermont health care workers headed to Super Bowl

Four hospital workers will fly to Tampa for game on Patriots’ plane
Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 7:30 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The last year certainly has not been pleasant for health care workers.

“The staff had to not only be there for their patients and support the fear and anxiety that their patients were going through, but they were going through it themselves,” said Kristin Baker, the emergency department nurse manager at the UVM Medical Center in Burlington.

“We have limited our contacts obviously, limited who we’re around for the last year,” added Lyndi Demico, a registered nurse at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital. “Me and my husband and son, we’ve been very diligent about it.”

The sports world has been largely spared the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but teams and leagues around the world have had to adapt as well.

“We’re big hockey fans,” Baker said. “When the NHL figured out how to create a bubble for the playoffs, I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to sports so much because it was just such a wonderful distraction. So odd to see a stadium completely empty.”

But it would have been too weird to see empty stands for the biggest game in American sports, so the NFL found a way to kill two birds with one stone. The league allocated 7,500 free tickets for vaccinated health care workers to attend Super Bowl LV in Tampa. Robert Kraft and the Patriots will personally fly 76 New Englanders down on the team plane, including Baker and Demico.

“The state of Vermont actually picked hospital names out of a hat,” Demico explained. “NVRH was one of the names that was selected. Dr. Rousse called me and told me that I had been selected. My 5-year-old was sleeping in the room next door so that initial squeal was more subdued than I would have liked it to be.”

“I really am speechless, I’m humbled,” Baker added. “Every single person in this hospital deserves the chance to go do this. The fact that I get to is overwhelming.”

It’s the experience of a lifetime for a group of people that have put everyone else ahead of themselves. But it’s also the most-watched event in the country and an opportunity to hammer home an important message.

“It’s a platform that’s going to allow us as health care workers to target the entire gamut in regards to the public and the community and be able to stress the importance of vaccination,” Demico said. “You know, promoting trust among the community to trust our science, to trust the process.”

“I hope that this shows the giant step back to getting the things back that we want and we love and we miss by getting vaccinated,” Baker added.

As for the game itself, Demico and Baker are Packers and Patriots fans respectively, but they’ll be on the same side Sunday.

“My big brother is a huge Bucs fan, and so I’m going down there and I’ll be rooting for the Bucs,” Demico said.

“I am a huge Tom Brady fan, and I’m a Gronk fan as well,” Baker said. “I’ll be a 12-hour Bucs fan that day, it’s fine.”

For one day, health care workers from Vermont getting to sit back and enjoy themselves at our country’s biggest sporting event.

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