Orange County nurses, respiratory therapists among lucky few attending Super Bowl in person

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- A dozen football-loving health care workers from Orange County are among the lucky few who will be at Super Bowl 55 in Tampa, Florida.

Salvador Pacheco is one of the lucky twelve nurses and respiratory therapists from the UCI Medical Center who will be watching the game from the stands Sunday.

"We were driving around the stadium just to take a look and it's a beautiful, big stadium. So we're definitely excited to be a part of it and, honestly, be a part of history in the Super Bowl," he said.

Pacheco and his co-workers are football fanatics and part of the UCI crew fantasy football league.

They were brought to tears when they learned the NFL had picked them as part of the 7,500 vaccinated health care workers who would be getting free tickets to the game, all part of a thank you for all their work during the devastating pandemic.

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The NFL announced Friday that 7,500 health care workers vaccinated for the coronavirus will be given free tickets to next month's Super Bowl to be played in Tampa, Florida.

"We're all really excited. It's definitely a break from the COVID world. We are the designated unit in our hospital, everybody takes care and does their part, but.. every single shift there's somebody in our unit that has taken care of a COVID patient," Pacheco said.

For the UCI team, watching the sport they love in person at the biggest game of the year is the best break they can get from the jobs they love and hopefully a sign of better times ahead.

"I miss the sporting events, I miss the concerts that we can't attend anymore. So hopefully this is the beginning of back to the normal way of life," he added.

Pacheco says he's picking the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, but says his heart belongs to the Rams, who he's hoping will be competing for the top title next year.

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