Like many others, senior citizen Earl Livingston planned on making a bet on the Mega Millions lottery in October 2018. But the 87-year-old broke his hip on his way to buy a ticket. However, his luck was about to change, as hospital staff had an incredible surprise in store for him.
The Mega Millions lottery game spans 44 states. The competition began in 1996, and is immensely popular in America. But in the fall of 2017, the team behind the game raised the stakes, so the value of the jackpot would be higher than ever.
Before, participants would select five numbers between one and 75. They’d also pick a “Mega” number from one to 15. At that time, the chances of matching all six numbers and winning the Mega Millions jackpot were one in 258,890,850.
But the new structure has participants select five numbers from one to 70. Meanwhile, officials increased the Mega number to between one and 25. With more Mega numbers to choose from, the odds of choosing a perfect set of digits skyrocketed to one in 302,575,350.
So, the game got harder, and officials reduced the number of Mega Millions drawings to help grow the lottery’s jackpot. That way, they could drum up huge prizes – and huge intrigue – from even the most skeptical of gamblers.
By October 2018 Mega Millions fever had reached an apex – and for good reason. The jackpot value had reached nearly $1.6 billion, and people across America were lining up for tickets.
In Blackwood, New Jersey, 87-year-old Earl Livingston wanted his chance at becoming a billionaire, too. So, he made his way to a nearby convenience store to purchase a ticket – but he wouldn’t make it there.
That was because Livingston fell on his way to the store and broke his hip. Rather than purchasing his ticket, the 87-year-old ended up at Jefferson Stratford Hospital, where he complained to staffers about his bad luck.
Fortunately for Livingston, his disappointment didn’t fall on deaf ears. In fact, it turned out that the hospital’s staff had pooled together to buy a ticket for the nearly $1.6 billion lottery – and they invited him to join in on the fun.
Jefferson Stratford Hospital’s chief nurse Marianne Kraemer told CNN that including Livingston was an easy call. “When [he] came in for care and he told them what [had] happened, they invited him to join as a way to make him feel less sick.”
Hospital staff chipped in Livingston’s $2 to join in the lottery ticket pool with the other 141 hospital employees participating. Then, they waited a few hours until officials drew the numbers – and they were in for a huge shock.
It turned out that the hospital’s collective ticket had matched five of the six Mega Millions numbers. That meant that all 141 of the staff, and Livingston, would share a $1 million payout. Hospital staffers found out the good news via text.
Kraemer told CNN, “We all got a text saying we got a million-dollar ticket. When we looked to see the names of who was in the pool, we saw [Livingston’s] name on the list, so we told him right away.” And, according to his nieces, he was over the moon.
Niece MaryAnn Bartnick told CBS Philly, “I couldn’t believe it. I kept saying that I could not believe it, it’s just kind and nice and it’s nice to know there are still good people in this world. It’s wonderful, we can’t thank them enough,” she said.
Bobbie Mickle, another of Livingston’s nieces, agreed. “We were overwhelmed and humbled that they did this,” he said. “They didn’t have to put money in for him, they didn’t have to tell him he won, they’re just honest good people and it’s just a heartwarming story that there are nice people in this world.”
Staff members were stunned by their win, too. Steve Grill, a nurse and one of Livingston’s carers told CBS Philly, “Look, I got goosebumps. It’s awesome because a lot of people could use the money – holidays coming up – it’s good to help other people.” He said he’d use his money to take his kids to Disneyland.
Even nurse Kraemer was stunned by the hospital’s good fortune. “I didn’t believe it at first, then I started thinking, ‘Oh my, what are we going to do with all this?” CBS Philly added that “[the] group is more than happy with their million,” even with almost 1.6 billion up for grabs.
In Simpsonville, South Carolina, one winning ticket was purchased which won just under the total $1.6 billion. That person hasn’t yet been identified. Meanwhile, the New Jersey hospital staff – and patient – would each take home a much more humble amount of money. After taxes, they’d all be about $4,800 richer.
Livingston would use his money quite responsibly, too. After undergoing surgery for his fall, he’ll use his winnings to pay his taxes. Livingston, who lives on a fixed income, told NBC10, “I want to thank everybody. I appreciate very much and God bless you and have a happy, happy long life.”
And, for the hospital staff who invited Livingston into their lottery pool, that’s what it was all about. Kraemer told CNN, “As excited as we were and in the process of congratulating everyone, we never lost sight of what was important, which is to care for our patients, and make them feel important.”