RALEIGH - Loretha Johnson, a nurse from Monroe, will get $52,000 a year for the rest of her life after winning the top prize in the $1,000 a Week for Life! game. She said that her win was “nothing but a blessing” and plans to use a portion of her winnings to share with some of the patients that she cares for.

“I have a lot of patients that have never known what it feels like to be pampered,” Johnson said. “I’m going to get them manicures and pedicures and get their hair done by a professional. I’m very happy that I’m going to be able to do this for them because they are so deserving.”

Johnson was at home when she learned she’d won the $2 game’s top prize.

“My husband had bought me some tickets and had them waiting for me,” Johnson said. “I started scratching it and I saw a match. Then I said ‘Baby, hold my hand. This might be it. This is it! This is it!’ I was screaming. Then my brain just froze and I went numb. You can’t prepare yourself for that moment.”

Johnson is the first player to claim the top prize in the $1,000 a Week for Life! game, which is part of a series of four instant games offering the chance to win as much as $5,000 a week for life. The tickets, which went on sale last August, are available for $1, $2, $5, and $10 per play. A top prize is structured in annual payments that continue for a winner’s entire life. The guaranteed value of the prize is at least 20 years of payments to a winner or the winner’s estate. The guaranteed value of the $1,000 a Week for Life! game is $1,040,000. Top prize winners can also choose to claim their winnings as a lump sum with a cash value equal to the guaranteed prize amount.

Johnson chose the annuity option, which amounts to an after tax value of $35,360 a year. She says she plans to use a portion of her winnings to take a vacation with her husband. The lucky ticket was purchased at the Kangaroo Express on Franklin Street in Monroe.

As of Tuesday afternoon, two top prizes and many other prizes remain unclaimed in the $1,000 a Week for Life! game.

Ticket sales for games such as instant scratch-offs have enabled the lottery to raise more than $2.6 billion for education initiatives statewide. Since the lottery began through June 30, 2012, Union County education programs received more than $55.3 million in lottery funds. By law, those funds pay for teachers’ salaries in grades K-3, school construction, prekindergarten programs for at-risk four-year-olds, and need-based college scholarships and financial aid.