Adventure turns out to be super memorable

Andrew Hoffman (left) and his father, Gary Hoffman, enjoyed a trip of a lifetime to the National Football League’s Super Bowl LVI where they cheered on the Cincinnati Bengals. On their way home, they experienced a surprise ending to their adventure.

(Posted Feb. 23, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

This year’s Super Bowl was an exciting one for Ohio football fans. For the first time in 33 years, the Cincinnati Bengals made it to the big game where they faced off against the Los Angeles Rams.

Fans have all sorts of stories about how they marked the occasion. For a couple of fans from London, the game turned into the trip of a lifetime with a surprise ending.

Gary Hoffman, a London resident and Madison-Plains High School teacher, has been a Bengals fan for as long as he can remember.

“I remember players like Kenny Anderson, Max Montoya, and Anthony Munoz clear back from when I was a little kid,” he said.

When Gary married his wife, Dina, they became a split allegiance household. She is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Several years ago, they made a pact that the next time one of their teams made it to the Super Bowl, they would go to the game.

The Bengals’ Cinderella season couldn’t have worked out any better for Gary when it came to making good on that pact. Super Bowl LVI, which took place Sunday, Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium outside of Los Angeles, Calif., happened to land on Gary’s 55th birthday.

“Turning 55 at the 56th Super Bowl–everybody in my family said, ‘You gotta go!’” Gary said.

While Dina couldn’t get time off from work, Gary’s son, Andrew, also a London resident, could. They booked a package deal that had them flying out Friday morning and returning home on Monday.

“On the flight out, it was all Bengals fans, which was awesome,” Gary said.

That’s when repeated chants of “Who Dey?”, the Bengals’ catchphrase, began.

“Of course, we said it about a million times (through the weekend),” Gary said, laughing.

Once in Los Angeles, father and son explored Venice Beach, Marina del Ray, Hollywood Boulevard, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and more. They enjoyed being tourists, with the exception of L.A. traffic.

The day of the game, they attended a professional tailgate party before heading into the stadium.

“The weather was perfect–mid-80s. The game atmosphere was awesome. The infinity Screen was incredible,” Gary said.

“I would say SoFi is the best stadium in America. The sound is just amazing. Every seat in the house is probably amazing,” Andrew said.

The duo’s seats were two rows from the top of the stadium. Many of the fans around them were people they had met on the flight. At one point, they serenaded Gary with the “Happy Birthday” song.

“It was a totally amazing time,” said the birthday boy. “The cherry on the top would’ve been the Bengals winning. They came so close.”

The Rams took the title 23-20.

Remember that surprise ending mentioned earlier? On the flight home the day after the game, Gary and Andrew were basking in the glow of a great experience as their trip was coming to an end.

Twenty minutes from landing back in Cincinnati, however, the trip became memorable for something completely separate from football.

The airline staff made an announcement, asking any doctors or nurses on board to press their call buttons. A passenger on board was experiencing chest pains. Andrew, who has been a registered nurse since last July, didn’t hesitate to press his button.

“I was expecting several people to jump up and go help,” Gary said. “I wasn’t expecting my son to help. I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do it. He looked at me and said, ‘I have to.’”

Andrew and another passenger who was a doctor tended to the patient, checking his vital signs, placing him on oxygen, and making sure he was stable. Andrew placed his Apple Watch on the man’s wrist to check his oxygen saturation and heart rate. Andrew and the doctor set a course of action that had the patient exiting the plane first upon landing, and they gathered information about the patient’s medications to pass along to paramedics on the ground.

Since joining the staff at Springfield Regional Medical Center last summer, Andrew has spent most of his time learning from cardiovascular nurses in the intensive care unit.

“It was almost like (the incident on the plane) was a good spot for me to be in,” Andrew said. “All these nurses had taught me so much that I instantly knew what to do. It wasn’t a shock or anything; it just seemed like I was back at work.”

Thankfully, the man was stable. After disembarking the plane, Andrew checked with the paramedics to make sure the patient was OK. The patient called Andrew over to thank him again for his help.

“It was a surreal ending to the trip,” Gary said. “I thought, ‘Maybe this was meant to be, even though the Bengals didn’t win. It felt good that my son could help someone out.”

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