While many of us will be watching the Super Bowl on the big screen on Sunday, a dozen Jacksonville health care workers are among the lucky winners who get to go to the big game in person.
Dr. Vincy Samuel, an epidemiologist at Baptist Health, will join her colleagues on a luxury bus provided by the Jaguars to head down to Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We’re excited, but I don’t think it’s completely settled in just yet,” Samuel said.
Days after finding out she was picked to go to the game, Samuel got another huge surprise. Her brother, Dr. Vinny Samuel, a pulmonologist in the Tampa area, also got picked to go to the game. Their seats are not together, but the brother and sister are excited that they’ll get to share in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the same time.
“Yeah, we only saw each other a few times last year,” Samuel said. “I saw him for Christmas. That was the last time I saw them, so it’ll be good to see him again.”
Samuel’s co-worker Jodie Bisogno, a critical care nurse at Baptist South, is also going to the game.
“I am over the moon. This is an absolute bucket list kind of thing,” said Bisogno.
She always dreamed of going to the Super Bowl since she was young.
“You know, this is one of those things that I remember being little and watching with my dad and being super excited,” Bisogno said. You watch thinking like, man, that would be awesome to go and thinking there’s no way I’ll ever be able to. So, this is amazing.”
Every day, they learn a little more about the itinerary for their dream Super Bowl weekend.
“There is going to be a free concert by Miley Cyrus,” Bisogno said. “Just the simple fact of getting to be there at the Super Bowl, being able to be present and see all these people that you watch on TV is something that you just can’t explain. To have something that gives you that hope and that excitement is giant right now. We haven’t had a lot of things to really look forward to, to really get excited about but, you know, your Florida team playing at their home stadium.”
As for COVID protocols, Bisogno, Samuel and the other health care workers have all been vaccinated and there is also a mask mandate in place for the game.
“We’re all vaccinated. We’ve all had both of our vaccinations in order to be able to go. We’ll be masked, will be socially distanced. We all know about hand sanitization. We’ll all be taking serious precautions,” Bisogno said. “We know what to do. We know how to handle this, and we just ask that the public that they’re with us that does the same.”
While Samuel knows she’s one of the lucky few who will be able to enjoy the game in person, she wants the Jacksonville community to still celebrate the game safely.
“Don’t let your guard down, keep going with those precautions. I know it’s been almost a year and we’re tired of it. We’re tired. We’re all tired of being inside and not getting to be around everybody we want to be around, go out everywhere we want to go out. But in order to continue fighting this pandemic, we have to keep wearing our mask, we have to keep social distance, we have to keep doing hand hygiene. And if you’re sick, stay home. It doesn’t matter what you think, it is not worth spreading it to other people that you love,” she said.
Bisogno said she does not take for granted how fortunate she is to have this opportunity and while her husband did not get a ticket, he is going down for the ride.
“Still didn’t think it was going to be a possibility for me, but so happy for everyone else across the country that we’re going to have this opportunity after such a horrible year of, you know, unpredictability, pandemic, rapid change to have something to look forward to, to have something to be excited about,” Bisogno said. “We just can’t put a price on that.”
Both women said they’re excited about the big match-up, and they’re definitely supporting their Florida team, playing in Florida.
“I’m still going to root for the Bucs,” Samuel said, “but, you know, I do love (Kansas City QB Patrick) Mahomes too ever since he was in Oklahoma. So, you know, I’m not going to be sad either way, but I’m rooting for the Bucs.”