Four local healthcare heroes were surprised by Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski with the news that they will be attending Super Bowl LV in Tampa.
Mandy Mueske and Woody Nixon (Moffitt Cancer Center) and Belinda Spahn and Heather Stegmeier (AdventHealth) were under the assumption that they were not selected among the qualifying applicants for tickets to this year's Super Bowl when colleagues recently surprised them with a special message from Gronkowski on behalf of the Buccaneers.
"The first time the home team is the actual home team and I'm going to be there. I can't believe that," said Nixon.
"I am so excited," said Mueske. "I've never been to a Bucs game but I've always wanted to, so the first time going is going to be the Super Bowl – I'm so excited… I watch games every Sunday. Go Bucs!"
The four guests of the Buccaneers will join approximately 7,500 healthcare workers from the Central Florida area and across the country who will be highlighted as honorary guests of the NFL. The game experience – a historic match-up between the host city team Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs – will include the chance to take part in various Super Bowl LV festivities at Raymond James Stadium.
"During one of the toughest times our community, nation, and the world has ever experienced, it was our healthcare workers that made sacrifices every day," said Brian Ford, Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer. "The entire Tampa Bay community is better because of their selflessness and strength, and the Buccaneers are honored to recognize Mandy, Heather, Belinda, and Woody for their commitment to serving others during the pandemic."
All healthcare workers attending Super Bowl LV will have completed their COVID-19 vaccination prior to the game.
"As the NFL season culminates in Tampa Bay, we are thanking our healthcare heroes who have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Peter O'Reilly, NFL Executive Vice President of Club Business and League Events. "We are honored to salute those who have demonstrated dedication, commitment and courage and deserve our deepest gratitude and admiration."
See below for further details on the four recipients:
Mandy Mueske is a registered nurse working in Moffitt's designated COVID unit, 5 South. Mueske recently joined the Moffitt team in August 2019 as a nurse student. The Wisconsin native attended school locally at the University of Tampa. Despite being a relatively new nurse, she has helped contribute to caring for patients whose cancer diagnosis has been further complicated by also receiving a COVID diagnosis.
Woody Nixon has been a part of the Moffitt family since November 2010, beginning his career as a tech. In 2014, he transitioned to be a registered nurse in Moffitt's Intensive Care Unit, where they currently treat COVID-19 patients. Nixon attended Hillsborough Community College and St. Pete College.
Heather Stegmeier is the infection control manager at AdventHealth Wesley Chapel. In her role she educates and assists team members in obtaining and properly using personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the pandemic.
Belinda Spahn is an ICU nurse at AdventHealth North Pinellas. Spahn was in charge of caring for their first Covid-19 patient, Charles Thompson. The care team worked together closely to save his life as his condition deteriorated. Thompson was released and wheeled out of the hospital 17 days later.