Concord nurse at the front line of COVID gets Super Bowl ticket

  • Concord Hospital nurse Dawn Chapman stands outside the main visitor lobby on Thursday before she left to go to the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida. GEOFF FORESTERMonitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 2/6/2021 12:57:03 PM

Dawn Chapman didn’t believe the news at first, and it’s hard to blame her. Most would be skeptical if they were told a private jet was going to drop them off at a bucket list event in a few days. Never mind if they were given the news just after being roused from sleep.

“I’m a night shift nurse and I happened to be sleeping in the middle of the day, but my son was banging on my door telling me there was an emergency,” said Chapman, who lives in Weare and has worked at Concord Hospital for 13 years. “He’s like, ‘Dad’s downstairs on the phone with the hospital,’ and I didn’t know why they would be calling me. Truthfully, I thought someone was playing a joke on me. You’re just waking up and I don’t know, I thought I was being punked. I’m looking at my son and my husband and both of them have these silly grins on their faces, and I’m looking around and then I looked at the phone and it was the hospital’s number. That’s when it hit me and, honestly, I just started to cry. I was like, ‘Oh my God, you guys, this is real!’ ”

It became completely real on Sunday morning when Chapman and 75 other vaccinated health care workers were scheduled to board the New England Patriots team plane at Boston Logan Airport for an all-expenses paid trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa. It’s a way for the Patriots to thank health care workers in the region, and it’s a dream come true for Chapman, even if her family can’t go with her.

“I’ve loved football my whole life. My mouth is going to be hanging open all day, so I’m glad I’ll have a mask on,” Chapman, 53, said. “This is a bucket list item for me, something I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I’m just going to be in awe.”

She deserves it. Chapman works in the respiratory care unit at Concord Hospital. She’s seen the worst the pandemic has dealt the city.

“It’s hard seeing people so sick. Seeing people without their families while they’re sick in the hospital. It’s been a lot,” Chapman said. “There so many emotions, in all honesty. Exhaustion. Sadness. I can’t even really put it in words. All I can tell you is the way we get through every day is because of our team. I wish I could take every single one of my team members with me. I wish we could all go.”

Chapman was one of the four New Hampshire health care workers selected to take the trip. Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft gave the tickets to Gov. Chris Sununu to distribute, and the governor then contacted four health care facilities in the state. The three other Granite State residents are Gina Teixeira, an emergency department nurse at Southern New Hampshire Health in Nashua; Jenna Osborn, an ICU nurse at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester; and Scott Trasher, Assistant Director of Environmental Services at Hanover Hill Nursing Home.

“We want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all of the healthcare heroes who have risked their well-being to ensure ours,” Kraft said in a press release. “They are truly superheroes to us.”

Chances are good the team plane will be filled with Patriots fans on Sunday. Chapman, however, isn’t one of them.

She is from West Seneca, N.Y., right outside of Buffalo and right next to Orchard Park, home of the Buffalo Bills. Not only did she grow up a Bills fan, she used to work at Bills Stadium, walking up and down the aisles selling food, drinks and souvenirs. She’s lived in New England for 22 years now, but fandom with roots that deep can’t be replaced.

“You can’t take the Buffalo out of the girl,” Chapman said.

Still, she respects the Patriots and what they’ve accomplished as a franchise. She feels the same about Tom Brady, who she’ll be watching quarterback the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Even though Brady beat her Bills year after year when he played for the Patriots, Chapman will probably be rooting for him to win another Super Bowl.

“I’m really an underdog person. If my team isn’t in it, I’m always rooting for the underdog,” Chapman said. “To me, Tampa Bay is the underdog against Kansas City, so I think I’ll be rooting for Brady.”

Back in April, the Patriots plane carried 1.2 million respirator masks from China to Boston. Now, it’s carrying more advanced tools for beating the pandemic – health care workers and the vaccine in their bodies.

“I feel like not only am I protecting myself by being vaccinated, I’m protecting my family, my friends, my patients,” Chapman said. “Hopefully as time goes on people will compare the vaccination to something like the flu shot, and people will just vaccinate in addition to wearing masks, washing their hands, socially distancing. And then hopefully that social distance will go away and we can get back to life as we know it.”

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