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Tampa COVID nurse is drafted to serve as honorary Super Bowl captain

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It’s not that she’s going to have good seats for Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa — nurse Suzie Dorner is actually going to be on the field.

“It’s had some time to settle in,” Dorner says. “But I still can’t believe this is happening.”

Dorner is a COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit nurse manager at Tampa General Hospital, but on Sunday she’ll be an honorary captain for the coin toss as the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

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Two other honorary captains will join Dorner: Trimaine Davis, an educator from California, and James Martin, a Marine Corps veteran from Pennsylvania.

Dorner’s invitation came from Buccaneers’ Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, who surprised her during a Zoom call on Jan. 26.

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“It takes a humanitarian effort to get us through this,” Brooks said. “You being on the front lines — I’m extremely humbled to be speaking to you.”

 

 

An elated Dorner accepted the invitation immediately, as her girlfriend cheered off-screen.

“I’m extremely honoured and humbled to be the representative,” Dorner says. “After such a difficult year, I think it’s just an amazing opportunity to celebrate.”

In November, Dorner was featured in a video put out by Tampa General Hospital showing what health care workers have been dealing with during the pandemic.

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In it, she describes the physical and emotional toll COVID-19 has taken on the staff.

“We’ve seen a lot of patients pass away,” Dorner says in Covid Chronicles. “I’m not just talking about older population. We’ve seen a lot of young patients pass away as well.”

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While she’s worked at Tampa General Hospital for just over eight years, Dorner only stepped into a managerial position just prior to COVID-19.

“I’d been a nurse manager for about three months before the pandemic hit,” she says. “My unit was turned into a COVID ICU literally overnight.”

Dorner lost her two grandmothers during the pandemic. They died of natural causes, but while it wasn’t related to COVID-19, there was still a lesson. Dorner wasn’t able to be with her grandmothers when they passed away.

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She says feeling that loss and not being able to be there helped her understand what others are going through. Right away, she says she tried to find as many ways as possible for families to communicate with loved ones in her ward.

“I wasn’t able to say my goodbyes,” Dorner says. “So one thing I really pushed after she passed away was technology.”

Sunday’s game will be sparsely attended. Raymond James Stadium can hold 65,000 fans, but due to COVID-19 protocols, only about 22,000 will be allowed to attend. A third of them will be health care workers. The National Football League has invited 7,500 health care workers. All of them will have been vaccinated.

As for who she’ll be cheering for, Dorner says there’s no question. She grew up in Ohio, so the Cleveland Browns have always been her favorite team, but she says after eight years in Tampa, the Bucs are a strong second.

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