By CBSLA Staff

IRVINE (CBSLA) –A team of frontline healthcare workers at the University of California, Irvine attended the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida Sunday with free tickets reserved as a token of gratitude for helping COVID-19 patients.

About 25,000 fans were in the stands for Super Bowl 55, among that crowd was a group of 12 nurses and respiratory therapists from U.C.I.

“We got a notice about a week ago that we were going,” said Cipriano Macabuhay, a respiratory therapist with U.C.I. “Kind of down to the wire but it’s awesome news.”

The team was among the 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers from around the country invited by the N.F.L. to the game as a thank you.

“It really does mean a lot because I think the 12 of us here representing U.C. Irvine are representative of a larger fraternity of healthcare employees who have really poured their heart and soul and sacrificed a lot,” added Macabuhay.

Macabuhay said the past year has been stressful working with COVID patients, and he is looking forward to the game.

“And it’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience. But we know when we get back on Monday there’s still work to be done,” he said.