Clockwise, from upper left: James Mizaine and Maria Centeio represent the Brigham at Super Bowl LV; Pat Patriot shows his Brigham pride at Gillette Stadium; Aravind Menon outside a concert held in honor of “health care superheroes”; Centeio shares a moment with Pat Patriot; and Danielle Bartlett savors the experience of boarding the Patriots’ team plane

When James Mizaine, team leader for Phlebotomy, began to read the email informing him that he was one of four Brigham employees invited to attend Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla., his hands started shaking with excitement.

“Since I came to the United States eight years ago from Haiti, it’s been my dream to go one day,” Mizaine said. “My heart just melted. I called my wife and started crying because I was so happy. She told me, ‘You work so hard in the lab. Whoever picked you for this knew what they were doing.’ I said to my wife, ‘I didn’t know people were watching.’”

The Brigham contingent was part of a group of 20 vaccinated Mass General Brigham (MGB) employees who joined other New England health care workers as guests of the Kraft family for the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. The guests, honored as health care “superheroes,” flew to the game in style aboard the New England Patriots’ team plane.

The mission of the trip, which was planned under guidance from the National Football League and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was twofold: to recognize and thank a representative group of health care professionals and to celebrate and emphasize the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

When it came time to pack for his upcoming trip, Mizaine knew there was one essential item he needed to bring: a Brigham and Women’s Hospital T-shirt, which he and Maria Centeio, a housekeeper in Environmental Services who also attended, happily displayed at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

“I was so proud to represent Brigham and Women’s and show people what we do,” Mizaine said. “I love this hospital.”

Centeio said attending the Super Bowl was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A huge football fan, she was overjoyed when she found out last week that she’d be heading to Tampa for the big game.

“This trip was a dream come true,” Centeio said. “When I found out I was going to Florida, I couldn’t wait to tell my husband. I enjoyed getting to experience the game with other hospital workers. Thank you to Mr. Kraft, the Patriots and everyone else who made this possible. There is a lot going on in the world right now and we have been shown a lot of gratitude by others for our roles in keeping the hospitals safe and clean. Thanks for the great memories.”

Danielle Bartlett, BSN, RN, CCRN, a nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, also said the experience was one she will always treasure.

“When we got off the plane in Tampa, we were surprised to be greeted by Robert Kraft. He said he was extremely thankful for the sacrifices we had made over the past year and that this trip wouldn’t be possible without the work we had put in and getting vaccinated,” she said. “Everywhere we went, people were coming up to us to say thank you for all that we’ve done over the past year. To feel that appreciation from all these strangers made me feel even more grateful for the experience.”

For Bartlett, a longtime Patriots and Tom Brady fan, even walking down the aisles of the Patriots’ team plane to find her seat was a surreal and incredible experience.

“This trip is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity,” she said. “It was a great way to close out what was a really hard year while looking forward to the future.”

Aravind Menon, MD, a Pulmonary and Critical Care fellow, was thrilled that he was able to attend his first-ever National Football League game in person on Sunday. He enjoyed the camaraderie he witnessed among his fellow health care workers.

“This was a welcome break for so many of us,” Menon said. “It was an opportunity to not only attend the football game but also to hear the stories from our colleagues about the challenges they’ve faced throughout this pandemic. The trip offered a glimpse of light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel and a glimmer of hope for normalcy.”