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Sarasota Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 4 months ago

Sarasota Memorial Hospital workers headed to the Super Bowl

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell surprised a group of Sarasota healthcare professionals with an invitation to attend the big game in Tampa.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

From Joe Namath to the 1985 Chicago Bears, making guarantees — and delivering — creates a storied piece of Super Bowl lore.

Rebecca Izquierdo, a case manager at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, can now add her name alongside those football legends.

Izquierdo is part of the patient care team at 5 Waldemere Tower, a group of frontline workers who has been one of the hospital’s busiest COVID-19 units. When the National Football League announced it would honor 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers with an opportunity to attend the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 in Tampa, it created some buzz among the patient care team.

The team lobbied to get a block of seats at Raymond James Stadium by sending a video to the Super Bowl host committee earlier this month. It wasn’t clear if they’d hear back, but Izquierdo was determined to speak it into reality.  

“I said, ‘Guys, we’re gonna make this happen,’” Izquierdo said. “‘We are going to go to the Super Bowl.’”

This week, her confidence was vindicated: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the 5 Waldemere Tower team the first group of healthcare workers to get an invite to the Super Bowl.

Goodell’s announcement was a surprise. The commissioner popped up on a Zoom call the unit was having with SMH President and CEO David Verinder. Goodell thanked the team for the sacrifices it has made since the onset of the pandemic, calling healthcare workers “America’s real MVPs — the most valuable people.”

Roger Goodell surprised the patient care team with the invitation during a Zoom meeting. Image courtesy Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

“I know you’ve put your own lives at risk and your family’s lives at risk to comfort and care for so many people in your community,” Goodell said. “We owe you our ongoing gratitude and can’t thank you enough.”

The news was met with cheers and tears from the patient care team, who will send 24 workers to the Super Bowl. Those who are getting the opportunity to attend said COVID-19 has been a daunting challenge for the better part of the year, and that the Super Bowl invitation was a sign of recognition and appreciation for that work.

“We have been through so much on this floor together, and we said: You know what?” Izquierdo said. “This is time for us to get together outside of work, because obviously none of us have been doing that, and celebrate all the hard work that we’ve done together as a team — and to show the community that we’ve persevered.”

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