NEW ORLEANS - 22,000 people will attend this year's Super Bowl. That includes thousands of healthcare professionals who've been invited by NFL teams across the United States. The Saints announced they're sending two dozen of Louisiana's medical personnel to the game, and many of course are excited.
"I think Kansas will pull it off," said Dr. Abdul Khan.
Abdul Khan is a doctor at Ochsner Medical Center specializing in Pulmonary and Critical Care. He's also a huge football fan, so when he was told he was going to the Super Bowl, he didn't have words.
"It's surreal," he said. "It's one thing to go to a Saints game and Pelicans game in town, it's another thing to fly and watch the most watched sporting event in the world and be there."
Dr. Khan is one of 24 Ochsner healthcare workers from around Louisiana who will be at Sunday's game. They were invited by the New Orleans Saints as a 'thank you' for their work throughout this difficult time.
"These individuals as well as the entire Ochsner Health system have played and continues to play a pivotal role in the fight to help our communities overcome COVID-19," said Saints owner Gayle Benson. "The Super Bowl is the greatest sporting event in all of sports and we are so glad to be working alongside the NFL to give this much deserved experience to these 24 individuals that have been on the frontlines."
"Obviously in a perfect world I'd be watching Drew Brees and the Saints play," said Dr. Khan. "But it's two awesome teams, two teams that deserve to be there. And so for me and everyone else this is going to be a fresh experience for us and something that'll be a little different than what we've been going through over the year."
Being selected to go was something Khan couldn't pass up. However, for him, it's bittersweet since his colleagues will be back home, facing a different kind of competitor.
"Since March we've been in the thick of the pandemic and taking care of very, very sick patients, and working really hard it's been stressful for everyone," Dr. Khan said.
This isn't the first Super Bowl Dr. Khan has been too, but it certainly will be the most memorable.
"For me," he said. "It just brightens your spirit a little bit, lifts you up a bit."
And he looks forward to the day when memories like this can be experienced by all.
All healthcare workers going to the Super Bowl have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Strict protocols, like mask wearing and social distancing, will also be in place for all attendees to follow.