Harlan native surprised with Super Bowl ticket

Michelle Asher, a Harlan native and ER nurse for Brandon Regional Hospital in Florida, was recently invited as one of 7,500 other vaccinated healthcare workers to Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida, as a way to say thank you for their continued service during the pandemic.

Asher said when COVID-19 vaccinations first began throughout Florida, nurses began hearing a rumor that those who took the vaccine would be able to go to the Super Bowl LV game being played Feb. 7 in Tampa.

“I work in the ER, so we were one of the first to receive both rounds of the vaccine,” she said. “Out of our ER, there was maybe about 20 percent of employees that took the vaccine within the first couple days they had offered it. I work for a big hospital, so that’s quite a few people.”

Asher said in between the first and second doses is when the NFL announced it would be a random drawing for healthcare workers who had taken both doses by a certain day, which fit all of Asher’s coworkers and herself into that category.

“We had talked and joked about it back and forth at work about how it would go and what were the chances out of roughly 1,100 at our hospital. It was like an every day thing,” she said.

A Sarasota sister hospital to the one Asher works for was later on the news when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conducted a Zoom conference call with the staff and told them they were going to Super Bowl LV.

Asher said the following Monday, she was visiting her daughter’s apartment when she received a text from her manager saying, “hey, you won a ticket!”

“Out of our group, there are six of us going to the Super Bowl,” she said. “And just this morning (Tuesday), the NFL issued our electronic tickets.”

Asher said it isn’t only the Super Bowl the healthcare staff has to be excited about, but the NFL has organized a whole day of activities to honor the medical staff chosen to be a part of game day.

A “TikTok Tailgate” event featuring a concert with Miley Cyrus and surprise guest appearances will take place for the approximate 7,500 medical staffers, including 18 local caterers providing food and beverages for free, special T-shirts for staff and higher filtration white KN95 masks will also be given out.

“They are grouping us in pods, so it’ll be like one person on an island, no one in front of you or behind you and so many seats near you,” she said.

Asher said everyone is excited to attend the game, noting it is “definitely a bucket list thing” because she has never been before and never thought she would be able to because of how expensive it is. She said the face value of her ticket is priced at roughly $20,000.

“I wish a family member could go and have that experience, but the way everyone had to be vaccinated by a certain date and there’s 7,500 of us, it’s kind of super impossible and you won’t be able to really sit next to anyone anyway,” she said.

Asher said it is a great honor for the NFL to do this for nurses and it seems like a lot for her going to work and doing her job, but it is a privilege to her and her coworkers.

“Even if you weren’t a fan of football, it’s still something you’re able to say you were able to participate in that,” she said.