Moffitt Nurse Scores Super Bowl Surprise

By Patty Kim - February 05, 2021

Nurse Michelle Rau jumped at the chance to be one of the first vaccinated against COVID-19. She works two jobs often seven days a week with severely immunocompromised cancer patients and knew she had to protect them.

Rau with her nurse colleagues at Moffitt.
Rau with her nurse colleagues at Moffitt.

“My patients are very brave. They all do clinical trials, and I thought, I’ve got to get the vaccine for them so we can make the world a safer place,” said Rau, who works in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Immune Cell Therapy unit. Patients here receive cellular immunotherapies like CAR T treatments and their immune systems are in a delicate balance. Everyone, including nurses, must be screened for respiratory symptoms before entering the floor — protocol established long before the global pandemic. Sniffles, the common cold and coronavirus can all be life threatening.

Being in the first wave of health care workers vaccinated at Moffitt made Rau eligible for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to attend Super Bowl LV in Tampa.

Michelle is a huge Tom Brady fan.
Rau is a huge Tom Brady fan.

“My patients are very brave. They all do clinical trials, and I thought, I’ve got to get the vaccine for them so we can make the world a safer place,” said Rau, who works in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Immune Cell Therapy unit. Patients here receive cellular immunotherapies like CAR T treatments and their immune systems are in a delicate balance. Everyone, including nurses, must be screened for respiratory symptoms before entering the floor — protocol established long before the global pandemic. Sniffles, the common cold and coronavirus can all be life threatening.

She’s a huge Tom Brady fan. Her husband records all of his games so they can watch together after she finishes her shift. The minute the Bucs signed Brady, she knew he would take them all the way. She kicked herself when she realized she missed the chance to see him at the Super Bowl in her own backyard.

Then she got the shock of her life.

ABC’s “Good Morning America” surprised her live on the air with a Super Bowl ticket. It was carefully coordinated with the NFL and the Bucs, with tight end Rob Gronkowski delivering a special video message.

“I can’t wait to see you cheering us on in the stands because you’re going to Super Bowl LV! Go Bucs! Aaargh!”

“That’s so exciting!” gushed Rau. “I’ve been a Tom Brady fan for a very long time. I feel like I won the golden ticket!”

COVID-19 has made it much more difficult to safely care for patients, which is why vaccination is so important. Rau juggles working at Moffitt with a second job as a home infusion nurse. That’s why she’s extra careful with how she lives life outside of work. She’s a mom of four and thinks twice about where she goes and who she’s talking to because she’s constantly exposing herself to vulnerable patients.

 

“Michelle takes care of her patients and caregivers as if they were family,” said Crystal Mock, patient care manager of the ICE-T Inpatient and Treatment Center at Moffitt. “She loves every single patient and goes above and beyond to keep them safe.”

Rau fired off a family group text as soon as she received her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. “I’m totally vaccinated!”

Rau is constantly finding ways to give back to her patients. At the height of the pandemic, many hospitals faced shortages of personal protective equipment due to a surge in demand. When she got her first stimulus check, she bought a sewing machine so she could make masks for her patients and co-workers.

Michelle Rau with her daughters.
Rau with her daughters.

“She’s the Energizer bunny because she doesn’t ever stop going,” said her daughter, Elizabeth, an oncology technician in the BMT Unit at Moffitt. She works on the floor next to her mom. So does Molly Rau, her other daughter, also an oncology technician for BMT.

“We take pride when people tell us we’re mini Michelles running around taking care of patients in our unit,” said Molly.

Both credit their mom with inspiring them to work in health care. As USF students, they are carefully considering medical careers. It’s because they have a great role model to learn from.

“She really takes the time to get to know her patients as a person, makes sure her care is personalized to them and that she’s not just filling out meds for the day,” said Elizabeth.

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