The New England Patriots won’t be going to the Super Bowl this year, but their owner is making sure healthcare workers across the region are among those watching the game in person.
Among the 76 health “superheroes” representing the six New England states are two employees from Baystate Health and one from Mercy Medical Center in Springfield.
“It’s a phenomenal honor, one of those unique dreams,” said Stephen Boyle Sr., a Baystate employee, who will be among the healthcare workers who will take part in the Super Bowl on Sunday as a guest of the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft.
“I first heard about it last Friday, but wanted to hear it again to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s Day joke or something,” Boyle said. “I was wondering, was I dreaming? “
Boyle and his Baystate colleague Sarah Haessler, as well as Cherie Rodriguez from Mercy Medical Center, will join the 73 other health workers – all of whom are vaccinated against COVID-19[female[feminine – on the all-expense-paid trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla., Where the Kansas City Chiefs meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Patriots’ private plane will transport guests to the game, which will be played at Raymond James Stadium. The 66,000-seat stadium will reach about a third of its capacity to allow social distancing.
Boyle moved from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area three years ago. In 2018, he was elated when his favorite team, the Eagles, beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
“Am I a Patriots fan? I am now, ”Boyle said Wednesday. “Getting on the team bus and the team jet – it’s so cool, but being selected to represent all the great people in the health field is the most fantastic part and an honor.”
Kraft’s move comes 10 months after sending the Patriots team plane to China to secure and retrieve the personal protective equipment that healthcare workers desperately need.
The trip has a dual mission: to recognize and thank a representative group of New England’s countless healthcare workers, and to celebrate and spread the important message of getting the vaccine.
Rodriguez is a respiratory therapist who has worked closely with COVID-19 patients, providing care and therapy. His selection is the result of a draw with the names of eligible colleagues across the regional health ministry.
“I felt guilty for winning and being selected. I wish all my cohorts could go. But I got a lot of positive feedback from them, ”said Rodriguez, who has worked at Mercy since 2009.“ When I first heard about this, my first reaction was that all the spots would probably be located in the Boston area. I am happy that we are recognized.
Rodriguez follows football closely and has said she loves both teams, but would lean towards rooting Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady to win a seventh Super Bowl.
“I’ve actually been a Dallas Cowboys fan for years,” she said. “I attended a Patriots playoff game years ago in the old stadium, and what I remember is sitting on those cold metal benches and ordering hot chocolate to stay at the hot.”
Healthcare workers will be accommodated on Saturday evening at Patriots Place. Rodriguez was scheduled to work Monday night, but she will be returning from Florida that morning, so a co-worker has agreed to change jobs with her.
According to Trinity Health of New England President Reginald Eadie, Rodriguez and Trinity’s other pick, Matthew Blouin of St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, “are exceptional clinicians whose unwavering dedication to their patients sets the standard. for safe, high-quality care, even during the most difficult times. They’re also great examples of the kind of coworker we’re lucky to have in Trinity. “
He added, “Often setting aside fears for their own health and safety, they have met these challenges with clinical excellence, adaptability, professionalism and grace. “
Haessler is a Baystate infectious disease epidemiologist and physician who has been tasked with ensuring Baystate Health is prepared for all possible communicable threats during the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2019, after hearing about the first cases of a new infection in Wuhan, China, she strongly recommended that Baystate Health step up its pandemic planning.
She identified the first cases that entered the health system in early March. Thanks in large part to Haessler’s foresight and attention to detail, Baystate has been able to safely manage nearly 3,000 hospital patients suffering from COVID since the start of the pandemic.
She has been the primary content expert and field resource for several aspects of the pandemic.
Boyle is responsible for catering, clinical nutrition, environmental services, patient transportation and bed management for Baystate Health. For months, he worked seven days a week for months to create safe work areas and support Baystate Health’s 12,000 employees and thousands of patients every day.
His work is often referred to as “hospitality”. It is a technically accurate but misleading label.
“I like to call our work non-clinical support services. It’s an honor to represent those in the non-clinical field at this game, ”Boyle said.
“During the pandemic, we were able to interact with all of these different groups. I admire clinicians so much too – anyone who walks through that door to work is a hero, really. “
When the pandemic hit, Boyle implemented new environmental cleaning policies throughout the system, including regular cleaning of hard surfaces and break rooms. He created spaces for the Baystate care team to take breaks while maintaining distance, transformed the cafeteria, and adjusted food procurement to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
Boyle also got disposable gowns early in the pandemic and addressed related staffing issues during off-peak hours and weekends.
Kraft noted that when the Patriots plane returned last April with masks from China, no one imagined the devastation the pandemic would cause, nor the heroic stories and achievements of frontline healthcare workers – and the creation of safe and effective vaccines.
“Ten months later, it’s an honor for us to celebrate these healthcare workers by giving them a well-deserved one-day break and the opportunity to enjoy the Super Bowl, a reality that is only made possible thanks to vaccines. We hope that by doing so, others will also be encouraged to get vaccinated as best they can, ”Kraft said.
“The heroes of health who risked their well-being to ensure ours. They really are superheroes for us, ”he said.