By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – While New England expat Tom Brady celebrated his Super Bowl win Feb. 7, Patrice Spicer, a nurse at UMass Memorial – Marlborough Hospital, boarded the very plane Brady used to ride on and headed home to tell stories about her own Super Bowl weekend.
Spicer is an endoscopy nurse who volunteered alongside colleagues in a pair of Marlborough Hospital coronavirus wards during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. For over a year, she’s stood near the frontlines of this health crisis seeing difficult moments of loss and separation.
This month, though, she got a break from it all via an all-expense-paid trip to Tampa Bay to see Brady’s Buccaneers play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
“Everybody deserved to go,” Spicer said in an interview, Feb. 10. “…I’m just very fortunate that I went.”
A small crowd full of health care workers
Facing the need to reduce crowd sizes as the pandemic lingers, the NFL limited Super Bowl attendance to roughly 22,000 tickets this year. Of those attendees, Feb. 7, roughly 7,500 were health care workers coming from near and far.
The New England Patriots got 76 total tickets to hand out. As Spicer was the only Marlborough Hospital employee chosen, she headed south solo but hardly alone.
The itinerary handed to Spicer called her to meet other health care professionals at Gillette Stadium at 7 a.m. on the morning of the big game.
“I didn’t really know exactly how the day was going to be planned,” she said. “You just are ready to go.”
At the field, Spicer took pictures with Patriots cheerleaders and the team mascot. Then everyone boarded a team bus and traveled, with a police escort, to Logan Airport in Boston where the Patriots plane waited to fly them to Florida.
“Every step of the way, we were treated like royalty,” Spicer said. “I just can’t say enough to thank Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization for such an amazing trip.”
Taking precautions in a big crowd
At the game itself, Spicer sat in a crowd that has, at some points, been criticized as a possible superspreading situation.
Spicer recognizes the concerns but did not see things the same way.
As she cheered, she said, stadium staff roamed the stands reminding anyone whose facemask slipped below their nose to pull it back into position. The NFL distributed PPE kits to game attendees. And, throughout the stadium, plastic and cardboard cutouts placed in seats kept in-person attendees spaced out from one another.
Vaccines helped, too.
“It’s a little bit of security,” Spicer said, who noted she has already received both doses of her vaccine.
Reflecting on a pandemic year
Back in Marlborough, Spicer is back to work. However, she’s not soon forgetting those early days of the pandemic that long predated this Tampa Bay weekend trip.
“The nurses were so busy,” she said. “They were just trying to keep up. So, I just went over and helped them do whatever they needed me to do.”
Those health care workers Spicer labored alongside were the staff of Marlborough’s Granger One and Two units.
After she was just recognized at the Super Bowl, Spicer now wants to make sure none of those unit staff members get forgotten for their sacrifices.
“[Fighting COVID-19 in the spring] was a team sport,” she said. “That’s important because it’s not just all about me. It was a team that took care of these patients.”