Nikea Brady was just 11 years old when one of her friends was diagnosed with cancer.
So she arranged a school dance to help raise money for cancer research.
The local woman is still helping others today.
And recently, Methodist Fremont Health honored Brady as its 2019 Caring Kind Award recipient.
A tradition of the Nebraska Hospital Association (NHA), the award pays tribute to outstanding healthcare employees who have demonstrated compassion for patients, cooperation with coworkers and dedication to providing the best care possible.
Hospitals across the state choose one Caring Kind recipient to be recognized during the NHA Annual Convention.
Brady, a medical social worker at Dunklau Gardens, has received high praise for her work at Methodist Fremont Health.
“In all my years in leadership, I have never had an employee more recognized for the level of service and compassion they have provided for residents, patients, visitors, fellow staff and community members,” said Melinda Kentfield, vice president and chief nurse executive, reading from a nomination form at a recent awards banquet.
Brady is described as having a heart for her work.
“When others are ready to just quit on something difficult, she digs in and strives to find a way to make something positive happen,” the nomination stated. “She finds the resource or wants to ensure there is support because compassion is what drives her.”
Brady points to a good role model — her grandmother, Lila.
“She was always cooking for people and if somebody needed a meal, she’d fry chicken for six hours before the meal. She made a lot of chicken. She never said, ‘no,’ and so I’m sure that played a lot into it,” Brady said.
Brady graduated from McCook Senior High School in 2008 and moved to Fremont, where she attended Midland University. She then went with a Spanish immersion study group to Spain for three months.
“I probably learned less Spanish over there and more about the people. They have a really high Arabic population over there. I volunteered at a daycare and worked with the kiddos,” she said.
The study group went to Morocco for four days.
“We stayed in people’s houses and I really fell in love with the family we stayed with and their grandma,” she said.
During that time, Brady had a chance to really get to know herself.
“I realized the things that made me really excited about life was relationships with people and connecting to whatever they need,” she said.
After that trip, Brady transferred to the University of Nebraska at Omaha and completed a degree in social work. She became a licensed social worker in 2013.
In the meantime, she worked at various part-time jobs in Fremont.
She did case management at what is now called LifeHouse homeless shelter for 2 ½ years. She came to Dunklau Gardens for an internship in 2012.
“It was a 512-hour internship,” she said.
2012 was also the year she married her husband, Fremont Police Sgt. John Brady.
“The night I met him I called my grandma and told her I’d met the man I was going to marry,” she said. “He was very respectful and the way we were able to communicate — he was the best man I’d met.”
In 2013, she was hired at fulltime at Dunklau Gardens. She talks a lot about teamwork among employees and meeting patient needs.
She’s seen patients in various situations.
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Brady remembers a patient from years ago. The patient had recently received a terminal diagnosis.
“We brought this person in and helped them accept their diagnosis,” she said. “We staged a ‘last date’ for this individual and their spouse and were able to help this individual end their life really well.”
Brady tries to see if she can help patients fulfill that bucket list wish — or get assistance with a basic need.
One patient no longer fit into the pair of shoes she wore when admitted to the hospital.
“When she was going to discharge, there was a blizzard and several stores were shut down and to find a location to get this specific size (of shoe) was really difficult,” she said.
The patient was supposed to see a doctor that Friday, but since she was without shoes planned not to go to the appointment.
Brady called her husband, asking him to go through his shoes.
“He brought out a bunch of shoes and we found a pair that worked and we gave him to her,” Brady said.
Another time, a patient had a history of noncompliance.
“She was feeling very hopeless and so with my team, we rallied around her and really helped her to get motivated and — in the end — she did not have to live in a nursing facility for the rest of her life,” Brady said. “She was able to go home and is enjoying her grandchildren to this day and living independently in the community.”
An exciting point came when the patient had an upcoming occasion.
As part of her success, the patient had lost a substantial amount of weight and didn’t have something to wear for the special occasion.
Brady arranged to take the patient to a store and purchase an outfit.
The award recipient has been described as someone who invests herself in her job.
“I feel this job that I’ve taken on is more than just a paycheck,” she said. “It is my mission for Christ and my community.”
Outside of work, Brady said she and her spouse are passionate about working in their community.
“We both are in service-oriented jobs and so it’s very common for us to really be talking about issues — like with the flood — we both took on extra hours at work and in volunteer endeavors to make sure those individuals were reached,” she said. “We want to see the success of the Fremont community continue to grow. We’re always looking for opportunities to do that together and then also teach that to our children.”
The Bradys have two daughters, Lila, 4, and Lorelei, 2, and a baby boy due in November. They’ll name him, Asher, which means “Happy” and Gabriel, “Angel of God.”
“So I have high expectations for him,” she said, smiling.
Brady cares about her family and understands what it’s like being on the other side of a diagnosis.
This year, she admitted her grandma, who has Alzheimer’s disease, to Dunklau Gardens.
“When the tables were turned and I admitted her with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it was extremely difficult and to be on the other side of the family – I went through a lot of those same emotions that families go through,” she said.
The other day, the Bradys’ oldest daughter, Lila — named for her great-grandma—had the opportunity to do something fun with her daddy.
“She wanted to come see mommy and grandma at Dunklau,” Brady said. “It really meant a lot to me that of anything my 4-year-old could have picked to do – she decided her time was best spent that day being with her family here.”
And who knows what Lila will do when she’s 11 years old.